COLUMBUS, Kan. — The Cherokee County District Court confirmed today that Judge Oliver K. Lynch has approved a grand jury to investigate actions taken by members of the Galena City Council in connection to a proposed landfill project.
The decision comes after opponents of the landfill — proposed near Riverton — filed a second petition earlier this month calling for the investigation.
Cherokee County Clerk Rodney Edmondson last week verified 504 signatures on the petition, which is more than double the requirement of 225.
An earlier petition circulated and filed by the group had 365 signatures but was denied Aug. 20 by Lynch, according to court documents. Lynch said the petition did not have the name, address and phone number of the person filing the document. He also said the petition gave no indication that any authorized official placed the verifying signatures under oath.
Jason Bolt, a spokesman for the Cherokee County Action Group, said the group sought legal counsel and corrected the errors before resubmitting the petition.
The petition calls for a grand jury to look into actions taken by Galena City Council members and Mayor Dale Oglesby. Bolt said the group wants to investigate whether decisions were made behind closed doors and they also want the grand jury to investigate the council’s actions.
Oglesby has consistently denied any wrongdoing and said last week that he welcomes an investigation.
The opposition group formed soon after July 7, when Galena City Council members approved the acquisition of a 160-acre tract and related ordinances to begin taking steps to turn 40 of those acres into a landfill.
The land, located at the northeast corner of the U.S. Highway 69 Alternate intersection with Lostine Road, near Riverton, was given to the city of Galena by Brian Jordan, of Jordan Disposal Service, with a proviso that he would have a perpetual contract for operation of the planned landfill.
The council’s action caused an uproar, and hundreds of county residents gathered at the Riverton High School on multiple occasions to discuss organizing, citing concerns about the environment, property values and more. A committee was formed to lead the opposition and the group later organized as a nonprofit, allowing it to accept donations.
But during a special meeting July 23, and after opposition had formed, the Galena council voted to rescind the contract and ordinances regarding annexation of the land. On July 30, council members voted to postpone discussion of a landfill until January.