Some Edgerton residents say they weren’t given proper notice regarding a proposed asphalt/concrete plant to be built at 20125 Sunflower Road.
They might be right. We’ve had concerns about the legality of the county’s official newspaper for at least a year; in fact, we filed a formal protest this spring.
County staff admitted to residents during a May 28 meeting that the conditional-use permit notice had been published in The Olathe News, an entity owned by a Missouri based corporation – The Kansas City Star. The Olathe News did not comply with minimum bid requirements when the county opened bids last spring, and earlier this year, commissioners voted 3-2 to reject a formal protest from The Gardner News and Shawnee Dispatch, who argued that neither The Star nor The Olathe News met the requirements set out by state law to serve as a legal publication.
The issue at hand was competing bids for about $200,000 worth of annual legal advertisements, now going to an out-of-state corporation. The county purchasing department does not prioritize local business as a matter of policy.
The Olathe News has an office front in Lenexa but did not have a U.S. Postal Service periodical postage permit, as required.
The Olathe News applied for a permit after The Gardner News publisher told commissioners and county staff that The Olathe News did not meet minimum bid requirements, was not a recognized newspaper by the Kansas Press Association and was not a registered entity with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office prior to the bid deadline.
However, county officials favored The Star/Olathe News bid. They said their decision was based on price and on circulation. The Star entity has a circulation of about 72,000 in Johnson County, while The Gardner News and The Dispatch have a combined hard copy circulation of about 27,500. A large number of copies of The Olathe News are distributed as an insert of the Saturday edition of The Star, which is not considered as part of The Olathe News circulation, thought to be about 200.
The purpose of publishing legal notices – bids, annexations, zoning changes, etc. – is to notify of the public of what’s going on around them, so they can be informed and have input.
In this case, it apparently didn’t happen, and we predict it won’t be the last time.
The state statute requirements for providing public notice have been in place a long time; and there is a good reason – accountability to taxpayers and the free-flow of information.
By circumventing statute and exploiting “grey areas” the county commission – or any government entity – ultimately hurts the taxpayers it serves. They control information.
The question here is not whether there should be an asphalt/concrete plant in Edgerton. Lack of published information is a symptom of a bigger problem – not properly informing the public and not complying with state statute.
Taxpayers are held accountable to laws; elected officials should be no different.
Residents will have an opportunity to make their voices heard at the July 3 county commission meeting, but they should also be encouraged to write or call their county commissioner John Toplikar prior to the meeting. He was one of the few commissioners to actually  listen to our protest and who understood the importance of keeping the public informed.
Public notice is an abstract issue – until you find out they are putting an asphalt plant (or whatever) in your back yard.
Good luck.
Our protest fell on deaf ears, and state statute was circumvented for political favor.