County OKs land purchase to expand North Topeka’s McKinley Park

Shawnee County commissioners voted Monday to buy a heavily wooded parcel of land, some of which can be seen in the background in this photo, to expand McKinley Park at 943 N.W. Western Ave. (Tim Hrenchir/The Capital-Journal)

Shawnee County’s parks and recreation department is developing individual management plans for each of its parks, and the plan crafted for the McKinley Park “mini-park” in North Topeka recommends expanding it, county commissioners were told Monday.


Commissioners Bob Archer, Kevin Cook and Shelly Buhler subsequently voted 3-0 to pay owner Vivian Hill $2,990 to buy a heavily wooded tract of land to the west adjoining the park at 943 N.W. Western Ave.

“This is a quality of life issue for that neighborhood,” Archer said. “I ‘m glad we’re doing it.”

The purchase will increase the park’s size from 1.28 acres to 2.01 acres, said parks and recreation director John Knight.

The county will pay using $1,625 from its parks and recreation building maintenance fund and $1,365 in revenue from a fee levied specifically to raise money for park acquisition and development within Topeka City Council District 2, which includes McKinley Park.

The area commissioners voted to buy is heavily wooded, Knight said.

He said the parks’ individual management plan suggests the county consider acquiring that parcel of land, removing the undergrowth, selectively pruning larger, established trees and working to re-establish additional turf areas.

The department anticipates the property being acquired will cost $1,272 annually to maintain.

Cook, whose commission district includes McKinley Park, thanked parks and recreation advisory/advocacy board member Teresa Miller — also president of the North Topeka West Neighborhood Improvement Association — for “all the work she has put into this.”

Cook said the purchase “unites the park and pulls it together” while also making it more cohesive.

Archer said he likes that the parks and recreation department is using the “systematic process” of forming management plans to make decisions about its park properties.

Commissioners also:

— Voted 3-0 to acknowledge American Medical Response Ambulance Co. is in compliance with parameters set in the county’s contract with AMR for June and July, though the company will pay fines totaling $2,460 linked to situations in which it failed to meet contract requirements.

— Voted 3-0 to reclassify the commercial appraiser manager’s position in the appraiser’s office upward to that of a deputy county appraiser, whose annual salary and benefits will total $105,525.

— Voted 3-0 to enter into a contract with the United Way of Greater Topeka authorizing it to serve as fiscal agent regarding the use of early childhood block grant funding for several agencies that work with pregnant and parenting mothers and their children.

— Voted 3-0 to contract with Healthier 4 U Vending to place healthy snack vending machines in Oakland, Hillcrest and Crestview community centers. The agreement arranges for the county to receive a commission on sales from the machines.

— Agreed, without taking, a vote to continue for two more weeks to accept qualifications information from anyone interested in seeking the vacant treasurer’s position on the board of Silver Lake Township. So far, one person has indicated an interest, Buhler said. Those who are interested may email their qualifications information to the commission at

— Heard Archer note that his horoscope Monday morning in The Topeka Capital-Journal had encouraged him to collaborate with people who have similar goals but think differently. “It reminded me of how fortunate I am to work with commissioner Cook and commissioner Buhler,” he said.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.