Archive for Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plan for new rec center met coolly

City manager says project fulfills 1994 sales tax purpose

July 14, 2009


City commissioners agree on parking rate hike

Parking rates will soon go up in downtown Lawrence, but not as much as once thought. Enlarge video

There may not be much room for fun and games in the city’s 2010 budget.

A majority of commissioners on Monday expressed concern with a proposal by City Manager David Corliss to spend $300,000 next year to design a new recreation center for city land near Overland and Wakarusa drives.

Commissioners at a study session stopped short of killing the proposal, but four of the five commissioners did balk at the idea.

“I’m in favor of a new facility, but I just question the timing of it when we are having a hard time — maintenance-wise — taking care of the facilities we have,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he found it difficult to support the idea, especially when the city is eliminating the Human Relations division in an effort to save money. The elimination of the Human Relations division will result in two city employees being laid off, although their job responsibilities will transfer over to members of the city’s legal services department.

“It seems like this is coming at an expense of a department,” Amyx said.

Corliss said he did not view it that way. Instead, he said he made the proposal in an attempt to follow through on the intent of the countywide 1-cent sales tax that was passed by voters in 1994. That sales tax was envisioned, in part, to fund new recreation projects. The city will pay off the Indoor Aquatic Center in 2010, so Corliss said he thought it would be appropriate to begin planning for a new project.

Commissioner Lance Johnson was the lone commissioner to strongly support the idea.

“I think the city manager has it right,” Johnson said. “Sometimes in tough times, we have to remind ourselves that we have to keep looking forward. This would be a good community-building type of project.”

Commissioners are expected to make a final decision on whether to include the project in the budget at their July 28 meeting. That is when commissioners are expected to set a maximum amount of money they are willing to spend in 2010.

In other budget news, commissioners:

• Largely supported a proposal by Corliss to establish a new sidewalk maintenance fee that would show up on the utility bills of all Lawrence residents. The fee, as proposed, would amount to either a half-cent or 1 cent per foot of frontage that a property owner has along a city street. Currently property owners are required to maintain sidewalks on their property. The fee would shift the responsibility — minus snow removal — to the city. Property owners would be required to pay the fee regardless of whether they have a sidewalk on their property because the city believes everybody benefits from good sidewalks. Mayor Rob Chestnut said he wanted to have more discussion about that part of the proposal.

• Heard that the city’s Convention and Visitors Advisory Board has agreed to support a proposal to raise the city’s guest tax to 6 percent. The tax, which is a special sales tax charged to hotel and motel guests, currently is at 5 percent. The increase is expected to bring in at least $100,000 per year in new revenue. Corliss is proposing that $50,000 per year for 10 years be spent to renovate the former Carnegie Library building at Ninth and Vermont streets. The building would house new offices for the Convention and Visitors Bureau and, perhaps, serve as the home office for the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

• Expressed concern about a double-digit percentage increase in water rates for many users. Typical households that use between 2,000 and 4,000 gallons of water per month are expected to see their monthly water bills increase by 11 percent to 12 percent. But sewer rates are expected to remain virtually steady for 2010, meaning combined water and sewer bills will increase by about 4 percent for most users. That amounts to about $1 to $2 per month for most residential users.

But Mayor Rob Chestnut said he’s concerned the city may be on track to see 10 percent to 15 percent increases in water bills for years to come. He said he’s concerned that the size of the recent Clinton Water Treatment Plant expansion and other similar infrastructure projects have been greater than what the city’s population demands.

“I’m concerned about what our rates are going to look like in 2013 and 2014, if we aren’t having the type of population growth that we’ve expected,” Chestnut said. “We need to come to a consensus about what our growth numbers are going to look like.”


cowboy 8 years, 9 months ago

Status quo new sales taxes in effect , increase in all fees , parking , courts , recreation , double digit water rate increases , clearly demonstrates the incompetence , inability , unwillingness , of the city management to adjust spending to revenue.

The city has made a long list of increases to keep the public feed trough brimming over. Wheres the list of cost cuts , savings , efficiencies ? That would require some leadership , innovation , hard decisions , feather ruffling , management skills that seem quite deficient in this commission and non existent in city staff.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 9 months ago

Property owners would be required to pay the fee regardless of whether they have a sidewalk

Lawrence is so special.

BigPrune 8 years, 9 months ago

Spend like nobody's watching; spend like you've never been poor; propose expensive projects like nobody's listening.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 9 months ago

".... we aren’t having the type of population growth that we’ve expected,”

But, But, Lawrence is so special.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 9 months ago

I'm still trying to get over the sheer idiocy of making the simultaneous recommendations of 1) a new rec center, at the same time as 2) a friggin (and illegal) library fee.

There will be lots of ways to spend that "recreation" sales money which is freed up in 2010. Maybe the commission should back up and evaluate the 1994 vote and the projects funded so far and make or revise their plan. If you can't afford to run the programs, maybe we shouldn't be building or operating the facilities.

Or maybe we should define the library as recreation, and give them the money they need for expansion/remodel?

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago


Given that the money was voted for as being for recreation, it should be used for recreation.

Of course, there may be much better ways of spending it than on building new facilities.

Why not use it for maintenance/operation/improvement of existing facilities, for example?

dipweed 8 years, 9 months ago

The South Park Rec Center needs to be refurbed or replaced before building another new facility.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 9 months ago

"... the intent of the countywide 1-cent sales tax that was passed by voters in 1994."

I wish journalists would stop referring to 1-percent tax increases as "1-cent" tax increases. The former reveals a full percentage of our income lost to taxation while the latter is intended to come across as a mere penny.

unelectable 8 years, 9 months ago

In a good percentage of the dwelling in this town it is not the homeowner but a tenant that gets the utility bill and therefore would be paying the sidewalk fee.

If the City is in charge of sidewalks will they be the ones to keep the grass and weeds from growing in between the bricks? If not, will the owner/renter have to pay a fine if their sidewalk growth gets unruly? Will the city keep all the brick sidewalks level?

So a corner lot would have twice the fee a lot in the middle of the block? That's a perk when trying to sell a house on a corner.

Is this just in residential areas? Commercial areas have much longer sections of sidewalk in front of each store. Is this a cost a small business could handle?

royalpain 8 years, 9 months ago

We need our own rec center in far west Lawrence. They are located in every other part of town - it's our turn now.

trvlronda 8 years, 9 months ago

I don't think so....the westsiders moved out there to "get away" from the city..... Walk/bike/run on all those nicely paved roads and new sidewalks and hiking trails. We need to take care of what we have before we build new facilities. Lawrence thinks itself to be 'green' and yet we build and when it gets old we just keep building new. It's shameful.

vermont 8 years, 9 months ago

What do you mean royalpain? What should we consider the two gyms at Freestate? Non-athletic facilities? Why would we consider this with the aquatic center and high school literally a block from this proposed building site?

What about a small outdoor theater with lawn and traditional seating at the corner of 6th and the bridge? We could put a stage at the bottom of the hill with the river behind it. Promote DTL as well as the arts. Bands play every Sunday afternoon with outdoor theater during the week?

avoice 8 years, 9 months ago

The election that earmarked this revenue for recreation was held in 1994. A lot of water has gone under the bridge in 15 years. The problem with these little taxes we add is that there is never a real review of what's being done with that money. How about putting it back to the voters to decide what happens with that money going forward? Maybe 15 years later the citizens have less appetite for additional recreation projects and would like to apply this revenue to something else.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure the private health clubs in Lawrence will welcome another government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded facility directly competing with them.

BenA 8 years, 9 months ago

Pure idiocy.

Tax, tax, tax. Hey, I have an idea, STOP STEALING MY MONEY! It is immoral, but furthermore it's just plain stupid. If the city commission continues to raise taxes, fees, ect., the cost of living will go up and people will move, thus decreasing revenue. I'm thinking about buying my cigarettes in Missouri from now on.

The thing that really sets me off is that rec center idea. David Corliss is a moron. The commission is raising taxes and you're proposing a new building? I'll bet you paid the guys at the DMV to get your license because I'm sure you couldn't do it on your own with your head shoved so far up your ass.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 9 months ago

Aren't you happy Lawrence voted to tax the poor to support the T now that it is clear the city is spiraling out of control? Congratulations.

mdrndgtl 8 years, 9 months ago

The only remedy for tough times is more recreation centers.

jonas_opines 8 years, 9 months ago

If they have $300K earmarked for recreational purposes, could they use some of that to buy some Round-up and spray the city parks, which are all positively infested with Poison Ivy?

puddleglum 8 years, 9 months ago

how about building a waterslide instead? that would be cool. Or, maybe we could get a new walmart on the southeast corner of congeressional & 6th. I know there is plenty of room on that chunk of land.

tir 8 years, 9 months ago

To all of those complaining about the sidewalk maintenance fee--it's peanuts compared to what an individual property owner would have to pay to replace his or her sidewalk under the current sidewalk ordinance, which puts the entire burden on the property owner. I know this from personal experience. I hope that this fee passes so that no one else will get slammed with the cost of fixing their own sidewalk like I did.

puddleglum 8 years, 9 months ago

why can't we get wal-mart to pay for our sidewalks? don;'t they have all the money

George Lippencott 8 years, 9 months ago

Here we go again, a new tax on only a portion of our electorate. Yes, we do need to maintain our infrastructure. We could tax everybody with a sales tax increase since sidewalks are for the common good or we could tax everybody with a water meter the same amount reflecting that we should all pay for that which we receive! Once again we have elected to focus the pain on the property owners. In fact, the more sidewalk the more you pay as if the property owner benefits from the sideway – they do not! Why?

There appears to be similar arguments associated with the way we intend to pay for our utilities and even the overhaul of our health system. Think income transfer! It would appear that we are moving rapidly toward where for the average American getting ahead will become impossible as we will tax you to the point where your living standard is no better than those to whom we transfer your income.

See more at my blog:

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

By the time the city finishes the 1,505 acre Clinton Lake Regional Park, which is being financed with the 1994 one cent sales tax, the extreme west side of town will have a luxury rec center. What more does any neighborhood want?

This rec center is one expensive project.

Jaminrawk 8 years, 9 months ago

Why don't they just install solid-gold toilets in city hall while they are at it?

booyalab 8 years, 9 months ago

Uh huh, yeah. I'm sure every penny taken from that 1% sales tax increase FOR THE LAST 15 YEARS has been safely stowed away in a vault marked "rec center $ ONLY, don't touch!". Unless, maybe, politicians don't necessarily spend the additional money they've coerced from us on their stated reasons for needing it. Nah, that's crazy talk.

1moreopinion 8 years, 9 months ago

I agree that they should build a new rec center on the west side, but NOT until the next century. If there is any money left over from this 1994 special tax, then it should be used to repair the current ones that are in desperate need. If they have already spent it all, then repairs will have to wait.

I guess Lance Johnson is a yes man scratching the back of Corliss. Prove us wrong, MR. JOHNSON! Grow some b....s, and remember the people who elected you to represent them, and to make sound, and logical decisions. Look at what is happening around you.

Corlis is probably pushing this issue because he made a promise to someone.


royalpain 8 years, 9 months ago

Are the gyms and fitness facilities at Free State HS open to the public for use at any time? Of course not. If all of us "west-siders" are here simply because we wanted to "get out of the city", then give us our property tax money to pay for this facility. If I pay twice as much property tax on my newer home than an older home in the "old" part of town, shouldn't that money stay in my part of town? All we have now is a makeshift park with no playground equipment (budget fatality 2 yrs. ago) at George Williams Way and Harvard. Granted, we have a great system of sidewalks and a partially paved trail at DeVictor, but what about gyms, weight training equipment, etc.? Why should the "rich west-siders" have to buy our own equipment? It's readily available in other parts of town, so why is it unreasonable for us to expect the same?

Sigmund 8 years, 9 months ago

BigPrune (Anonymous) says… "Spend like nobody's watching; spend like you've never been poor; propose expensive projects like nobody's listening."

Hope you don't mind, but I'm stealing this and calling it mine!

puddleglum 8 years, 9 months ago

sidewalks? with a rec center, maybe we wouldn't need sidewalks so much

ObiWan 8 years, 9 months ago

I'm all for community recreation services, but the ones that already exist are horribly maintained. Maybe for now we should just work on the rec centers that already exist. Oh, and get some new kickballs for the league that they charge teams $200 to play in!

Mary Alexander 8 years, 9 months ago

I agree with those that feel the 300K should go to the repair of the Rec Centers we already have. Wait on the West Lawrence Rec Centers once they are ready to pay for it themselves.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

West siders will have the athletic facilities at Clinton Lake Regional Park at their disposal. With the largest park no less. Plus soccer fields. Why do any duplication in such close proximity? This project is a rec center.

$12,000,000 - $16,000,000(millions) maybe more. I'd say a fair amount of the 1994 sales tax is spent.

$300,000 could truly rehabilitate some sidewalks in east Lawrence.

OR that $300,000 could be spent to determine why the 25 year expansion of the tax base failed. Then the city could stop repeating the same mistakes. A Cost of Community Services Study was suggested 10 years ago at least maybe 12 years ago. Perhaps this would explain the tax increases/user fee increases of all kinds. Taxpayers would like to know.

royalpain 8 years, 9 months ago gardner drives an F150! I'll just send my personal shopper out to get my membership. Right after I settle this squabble between my maid and nanny! Good help is so hard to find!

LadyJ 8 years, 9 months ago

Check Corliss's address, mystery solved

disgustedagain 8 years, 9 months ago

It seems ridiculous when city services are likely to be cut to even consider a new rec center, much less a horrible amount of money to "study" the idea. Jeez.

The tax for sidewalk repairs is a great idea. It's never seemed fair that people who live with a sidewalk have to pay for the repairs when everyone (including those without a sidewalk on their properties) have the use of these "public sidewalks." Everyone should have to help pay for any repairs for public facilities, including sidewalks. Even more so if they are going to fine people for not clearing these "public sidewalks" quickly enough to satisfy the neighbors WITHOUT sidewalks to clear.

parrothead8 8 years, 9 months ago

Let me get this straight...Corliss sees that a 1-cent sales tax passed in 1994 is about to finish paying off the project it was passed to pay for, so instead of moving to repeal the sales tax (and put money back in our pockets) he starts looking for other ways to spend the money?

That's like one of us saying, "Oh, sweet. I just made my last car payment. Guess I need to go buy another car so I don't save any of that money."

kidscount 8 years, 9 months ago

Far west Lawrence has enough oppritunity to give to their children. what Lawrence needs is a rec center that can be ran by parent volunteers that has a small theater, bowling alley, skating ring, arcade, putt putt golf. seriously, what a profit it would make especially if parents were to run it as volunteers. it would really work.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

Let's hear more about the Clinton Lake Regional Park that should more than meet the needs of any part of town. A 1,505 acre park with baseball and soccer facilities that is taking money from that 1994 sales tax as we speak. Why is this largest rec center in Lawrence park not sufficient?

That city owned land at Overland and Wakarusa may be more necessary for another elementary school which would save taxpayers money.

The 25 year expansion of the tax base did nothing but expand our property tax bills and create other higher taxes and user fees. Why did that happen? Where is the money?

Why not spend some money determining why that expansion of the tax base has done nothing but increase our cost living that which is contradicting to a tax base expansion? Taxpayers want to know.

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