Sedgwick County candidates offer ideas at forum

Western Sedgwick County residents will have a new county commissioner come January. The question remains: Who?

David Dennis and Marcey Gregory made their case before about two dozen people at a forum Tuesday night in Colwich.

Dennis, a retired Air Force colonel and former state education board chairman, said he would create citizen advisory boards to listen to resident input.

“I want to make sure I can get a cross section of our citizens before we make major decisions,” Dennis said, criticizing the current Sedgwick County Commission majority for not listening to residents at budget hearings.

Gregory, the Goddard mayor and a small-business owner, said she’d work to bring jobs to Sedgwick County and engage smaller communities around the county.

“I’m very proud of my record,” Gregory said. “I’m just ready to move on to a new challenge.” Dennis said the county should be open to borrowing to pay for infrastructure projects instead of paying for them with cash reserves.

“Senior citizens are paying for a bridge that they may never be able to drive over,” Dennis said.

Gregory said the county should give further support to senior centers. Both Gregory and Dennis said they’d work to improve EMS response times in District 3, a vast district that covers most of the western half of the county.

Gregory expressed concern about the state-imposed property tax lid on local governments. The law requires cities and counties to get a public vote to approve spending above a state-set minimum.

“It is limiting the cities’ ability to grow,” Gregory said. “People want to elect people to study a situation and figure it out...They elect officials to make those decisions for them.”

Dennis, like more conservative commissioners on the current board, expressed support for the lid, saying most Kansas residents supported the idea.

Both candidates say they are worried about the financial health of Fire District One, which provides fire protection services to rural residents. Dennis said those firefighters could use better equipment. Gregory said she was worried about staffing levels being too low.

Dennis voiced some support for gun lockers in the Sedgwick County Courthouse, but said commissioners should have explored cheaper options for stowing weapons when people bring them to the courthouse.

Gregory blasted the idea and said the area around the courthouse is a relatively secure and safe place.

“I believe it was a needless, wasteful expense,” Gregory said about the gun lockers.

The winner will represent District 3, which includes large parts of west Wichita and small cities like Goddard, Cheney, Colwich and Andale. The seat is open because Dennis beat incumbent Karl Peterjohn in the Republican primary.