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Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2012

Financial stability

August 16, 2012

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To the editor:

The projected cost of the new rec center is too much. It has been reported the city would pay $100,000 each month for 20 years for the facility. I met with Parks and Rec and was told it would cost an extra $1 million a year to operate. That’s about $83,000 each month. That makes the city’s obligation approximately $183,000 per month for the next 20 years.

A few years ago, a gambling casino wanted to build in Douglas County. Their request was denied because some thought the gambling element would be bad for Lawrence. Isn’t that what is being done with the new rec center? The City Commission is gambling that Lawrence can attract all kinds of events to defray the cost of building and operating this cash-eating monster. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean people and events will come to it. Just ask Frisco, Texas. They are $1 million behind in payments for their sports facility.

If Lawrence doesn’t get selected for events, how is the city going to make up the shortfall? And don’t forget the $58 million sewage treatment facility, the $40 million police facility and additional officers, plus what is needed to maintain the water intakes from the Kansas River.

Question is, what is more important to Lawrence: clean drinking water, a sewage treatment plant and someone to respond to your 911 calls quickly, or basketball courts? Why jeopardize Lawrence’s financial stability in the unstable economy? A balanced budget is better than a bankrupt city. 

Comments

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Operating costs were reported in one article as about $350K/yr. If they're really more like $1 million/yr. the situation is even worse than I had thought.

Kate Rogge 2 years, 4 months ago

We can't afford it. We shouldn't do it. But the City Commissioners are in the bag and it will happen just the way Fritzel and KU want it.

JrMints 2 years, 4 months ago

I think the Rec Center is a great idea for Lawrence for many reasons. I know firsthand from being a parent and from trying to rent gym space every week, that we don't have enough places for our kids' and adult activities. The Rec Center is a great opportunity to leverage money from private developers, the University of Kansas, and the city to complete a project that none alone would likely complete. The combined track, soccer, and gym facilities will provide great opportunity for outside money to be spent in Lawrence at tournments and sporting events held at the facilities. The Emp-T may actually get some ridership if the City offers express service between the Rec Center and downtown. This is a project that will benefit the entire community for many years. I strongly support the Rec Center.

lunatic 2 years, 4 months ago

I support the rec center! It will be funded by EXISTING SALES TAX STREAM.

Kate Rogge 2 years, 4 months ago

For 20 years? What if, God forbid, we'd like to do something else with public sales tax monies between now and 2032? It is nonsense to pretend that this whole thing isn't driven by KU's desire to have public money pay for its track and training needs and for the Fritzels to become even more wealthy with public monies? We need, at most, a modest city recreation center - like that in east Lawrence - and many, many, other things before we need to depend upon breaking even - let alone making a profit - from anything associated with the certain-to-be-approved recreational center. What a farce to pretend otherwise. We're a little city. Not Johnson County and not the Legends. Where we place our limited public monies - if wrongly allocated, as I believe this monster recreation center is a wrong idea at this time - impacts the citizens of this little city profoundly.

Windemere 2 years, 4 months ago

I support a center with 8+ gyms. We need that badly in Lawrence. All the other aspects of the proposed center? Strikes me as buying a mansion when we need a modest rancher. Can't we plan the thing so that we can expand the facility as needed & when we can better afford it? Or at least, the planners need to present a very compelling case that the center as envisioned will be not be a fiscal drain.

Catalano 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't think San Bernardino is an enclave for liberal government peeps.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 4 months ago

The top seven employers in San Bernardino were all public entities, while the next largest employer is an Indian casino. For any community to thrive, there needs to be a good mix of private and public employers. San Bernardino got top heavy in one and like a house of cards, collapsed under it's own weight.

Fnative1 2 years, 4 months ago

While each community needs to have dialog on how they develop, it's always good to share accurate facts.

You said: "Just because you build it, doesn’t mean people and events will come to it. Just ask Frisco, Texas. They are $1 million behind in payments for their sports facility.: "

  • where did you get this figure from? The Frisco Rec. Center operates in the black and is so busy/full, that they are now working on expansion. If you are talking about The Field House USA, which is public/private venture, it is booked solid and bursting at the seams. Frisco has focused on tourism/sports. They are home for FC Dallas & 17 tournament grade soccer fields, which hosts, among other things, one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the world (Dallas Cup), they are home for AA Baseball stadium (Frisco Roughriders), They are home for the NBA D-League team (Texas Legends), they are home for the Dallas Stars professional hockey team corporate HQ and Practice Facility, they are home for minor league hockey team and NAHL champion Texas Tornado, the previously mentioned Field House and the list goes on. I am sure they would welcome a call to share anything you may need to further your healthy dialog.

pizzapete 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't think we should be comparing Lawrence, KS. with Dallas, TX., when discussing the need for and use of sports complexes. Other than the projected cost to operate and maintain the facility, there are numerous differences between the two cities that make any further comparison suspect. Dallas, for example, has a large population to fill a huge facility, people can play soccer there year round, and amateur sports are like a religion in TX. Besides the obvious differences in population, climate, and sports culture, Dallas also has far greater resources to pay for this type of project. I'm sure surfing is very popular in California with many events and tournaments, but that doesn't mean thousands of people are going to be flocking to Clinton Lake if the city builds an expensive wind surfing pavilion there.

Fred Henderson 2 years, 4 months ago

I got my info from talking to people like parks and rec. As for the $1,ooo,ooo behind in lease payments for Fieldhouse USA, that came from Journal World, Aug. 3rd issue. And I forgot to mention the $1,000,000 Bill Self is giving, which according to ljworld online, is going to Fritzel fund, not the city. And what about the nearby sites that will also be competing for the same events like the New Century Fieldhouse?

Bucksilver 2 years, 4 months ago

'Love the positive energy that has gone into projects like rec paths throughout the city, fire stations, the East Lawrence Rec Ctr, LMH, the airport, East Hills Business Park and Theater Lawrence to name just a few... As well as some of the more private sector projects like The Oread Inn, 9th & New Hampshire and other suitable urban infill projects to significantly boost revenue downtown and elsewhere, while adding to the aesthetic of the city. Fabulous to be a Lawrencian these days and to experience the advancent of such a vibrant, thriving, modernized, inclusive, excellent home town! The new sports and rec facility is another superb example of who we are and what we have to offer in the way of quality of life!

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

You know, there seems to be a subtle idea floating around that those who aren't gung-ho for new taxpayer funded/incentivized developments are "negative", and that we want "positive" energy, which means supporting these sorts of projects.

I take issue with this idea - I moved to Lawrence and fell in love with it over 15 years ago. Over that period of time, we've had significant growth and change in the city, some positive and some negative.

Growth and development are two-edged swords, in my experience - they bring both positive and negative attributes. The growth over the last 15 years or so has brought some positives, but also some negatives - in some ways, some of the things I loved about Lawrence have disappeared.

Those who are uncritically supportive of growth seem to have a rather rose-colored glasses view of it, and are prone to unreasonable optimism, in my view.

Bucksilver 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the awesome dialog. I know many of us are wary of potential boondoggles and/or quality-of-life-diminishing proposals or projects. Please share examples of some of the things you love in and about Lawrence that have disappeared in your 15 years here. Parties to this conversation need to know, so such things can be openly considered, particularly in light of the proposal at hand. Thanks again!

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Crime has increased.

Traffic has increased.

The community is less coherent, and more fragmented.

Cost of living has increased, particularly real estate.

In general, I'd say that Lawrence has changed from being a town into a small city.

verity 2 years, 4 months ago

I generally stay away from commenting on Lawrence or Douglas County only articles as I have moved away and no longer have a dog in the fight, but will respond to Bucksilver's questions.

I loved having the Lied Center in town---however the tickets got so expensive I quit going.

Safety became more and more of an issue. There were many free or inexpensive things going on at KU, but I didn't like walking on campus alone after dark. Walking to and from campus after dark was asking for trouble. There were too many shootings too close to my house and too much blatant drug dealing, some next door to me.

Politics often seemed to get in the way of good sense. While I generally consider myself a liberal, I felt there was an extreme element which may have been small but were very insistent and that sometimes led to what I consider a waste of money. I don't believe that every old building is worth rehabbing. Downtowns will expand. On the other hand, expansion citywide hasn't necessarily been planned wisely.

Lawrence is not friendly to walkers. Try crossing at 23rd and Iowa without getting hit.

The library expansion seems to me to be an example of spending money without forward thinking. With even current technology, libraries will probably change drastically in the near future and I don't think that was taken into account. Not everybody can have access to the current location. Lawrence is large enough to have branch libraries, making access easier.

I think the current sports complex is the same sort of situation in some ways. Most people paying for it will probably not be in a position to use it. How many kids will be able to walk to it and have a game of pick up basketball? Will it really give kids something to do? Counting on out-of-towners to make it a paying proposition is maybe not a good idea.

Lawrence, to me, was neither here nor there. Doesn't have too many benefits of a large city, but has lost the sense of community. That is my experience.

verity 2 years, 4 months ago

Didn't see jafs reply before I posted mine. He pretty much says the same thing in less words.

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

:-)

We'll be moving shortly, probably within the next 5 years or so.

If you don't mind, where did you move to, and do you like it?

Bucksilver 2 years, 4 months ago

Many thanks for those additional considerations. I love Lawrence -- love where it's headed! Love being here, raising kids here, friends here, education and recreation and art opportunities -- awesome stuff! There's some fragmentation here, like anywhere that has anything going on, but I'm really digging the unification -- lots and lots of that here, too, for those who care to partake!

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Sure, if we want to jump on your bandwagon.

In the last 15 years, we've seen Lawrence change from a community into at least 2 - old and new Lawrence, east and west Lawrence, etc.

The influx of commuters on the east and west sides of town living in new developments drove up the price of real estate quite a bit, as well - when I first moved here you could buy a crummy house in a so-so neighborhood for about $30K, now you're unlikely to find that for under $100K.

Fewer people can afford to both work and live in Lawrence than before, which also changes the nature of the community.

I don't understand the need for rah-rah cheerleading without critical analysis and thought.

Bucksilver 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for being part of the movement toward continued community advancement to remain relevant and become more relevant in our world; toward new programs for people of all ages and incomes, reduced residential tax burden, increased health, safety and recreational amenities, and toward inmumerable other benefits to Lawrence, our guests and citizenry! Our rewards will, at a minimum, match our level of enthusiasm -- we're going for it!

kinder_world 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks to Scott for another well throughout letter. Agree with "jafs" and "verity". Also plan to move from Lawrence in under 5 years. Local governments have forgotten what their responsibilities are as stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

verity 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm not saying Lawrence isn't great for some people. It just gradually became a place where I wasn't comfortable living and it seemed to be moving more in what I considered was the wrong direction. Long-range planning often seemed to be non-existent or wishful thinking or for the benefit of those in power and not the average citizen. There seemed to be two widely diseparate ideas of were the city should go rather than any consensus and with that a refusal to work together.

I do still have a special place in my heart for Lawrence and for the parades. Nobody does parades like Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

1994 Sales tax money

Do the pros outweigh the cons of the new proposed sports complex? The answer appears to be no. (Taxpayers are on the hook for the more than $20 million USD 497 sports project as we speak).

http://www.lawrencesmartgrowth.blogspot.com/

It is time in my estimation to revisit this 1994 sales tax and ask voters how elected officials should be spending this money. For any group of politicians to believe that voters blindly trust politicians with their tax dollars is not real and hasn't been for at least 50 years.

Bring the voting taxpayers back into the process after all we are the largest group of stakeholders in Lawrence,Kansas.

"Can the city approve this “Field House” without a public vote?" Yes they can.... Which could easily become $40 million or more. This project will need a very large advertising budget.

However there is nothing stopping them from putting this matter on the upcoming ballot which I believe is the ethical approach.

Politicians believe because they have the authority to spend tax dollars anyway they desire, no questions should be asked and voters should simply trust their motivations. I know very few taxpayers who accept this position.

This 1994 sales tax is not dedicated to the park department in spite of the fact a large chunk has been funding park department projects. This money could be spent to rehab our elementary schools and remove the portable class rooms that has been talked about for years thereby avoiding a tax increase or a bond issue.

This money could be spent to rehab the library thereby eliminating a tax increase as I introduced to the city commission perhaps a year ago and the LJW more or less supported this proposal in an editorial. In fact 5%-10% of this sales tax could be dedicated to the library for operations still leaving 90% for other uses that benefit all taxpayers.

This money could build this community a nice Vo-Tech center. College grads could improve their opportunities for employment. High school grads could improve their opportunities for employment. Laid off employees could improve their opportunities for employment. Anyone seeking to broaden their horizons could improve their opportunities.

Providing a nice Vo-Tech would be expanding the higher education industry. Investing further into the industry of higher education would be a solid investment. Students are good for economic growth and they love Lawrence,Kansas.

Committing tax dollars to the "field house project" is likely on the upcoming city commission agenda which I believe is rushing it considering the amount of concern being voiced from just about every corner in Lawrence,Kansas.

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