Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the Andover mayor’s name.
Growing weary of cities that annex property on either side of a roadway but don’t take responsibility for the road itself, Sedgwick County has sued the city of Andover over a portion of 159th Street East.
In its lawsuit, the county asks Andover to annex 159th Street East between Kellogg and Central.
The west half of the right-of-way is in Sedgwick County, and the east half is in Butler County. Andover has annexed land bordering 159th over the years but “chose not to annex the road itself,” the county’s petition, filed in Butler County District Court, says. The city of Wichita annexed up to the middle of the road on the west side. But the city of Andover has not annexed the east side.
The county passed a resolution last year directing Andover to annex that portion of 159th Street. Lawyers on both sides then exchanged a series of letters. Andover’s lawyer, Norman Manley, said he thought the request should come from the county where the roadway is located.
“Otherwise, I suppose that it would be perfectly acceptable for the Board of County Commissioners of Butler County to adopt a similar resolution applicable to a roadway in Overland Park,” he wrote in a December letter.
He said that if Butler County made the required notification, “the city of Andover will proceed with the annexation but until such time, I do not believe that the city intends to annex the roadway.”
Sedgwick County responded, saying that it was authorized under state law to direct Andover to annex the right-of-way.
Andover Mayor Ben Lawrence called the lawsuit “pretty silly.”
He said Andover leaders “haven’t said we won’t annex it.” But he said that portion of the road is not in good shape. He also echoed the city’s lawyer that he didn’t believe Sedgwick County had power to order a community in another county to do something.
Commissioner Dave Unruh, whose district includes the roadway in question, said the county has been trying for two years to settle responsibility for the road. He said a stoplight at Kellogg and 159th has increased traffic, and he said he told officials in Wichita and Andover that “somebody’s going to start getting a lot of complaints about that road. We told them that road’s not going to be able to take it (the traffic).”
The county put down a surface that should last five years, Unruh said, and Wichita agreed to take responsibility to the center line.
Earlier this month, Andover asked for an extension to reply to the lawsuit. Its response is due May 31.