Archive for Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rec center project progresses; city gives plans for police headquarters cooler reception

June 19, 2012


A plan for a $24 million regional recreation center continued to move ahead at a faster pace than a new $42 million proposal to shore up the Lawrence Police Department.

City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting directed staff members to continue pushing ahead with a proposal to build what is now being termed a “sports village” at the northwest corners of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. But commissioners did not give such marching orders for a project that would build a new $30 million police headquarters building and add 46 new positions to the city’s police force over the next four years.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting didn’t finalize or outright reject either project. But on the recreation center project, commissioners directed staff members to negotiate a pair of new contracts — including a contract with Lawrence-based GouldEvans architects to work on a more specific design and with a consulting firm that can provide an estimate of the economic impact a regional sports complex could have on the local economy.

On the police proposal, commissioners gave less concrete direction, and some specifically said they weren’t comfortable with the aggressive nature of a four-year plan to fund the project.

“I would certainly like to look at how we could pay this off over a longer time period instead of a four-year sprint,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.

One scenario city staff members put together for discussion purposes called for a nearly 5 mill property tax increase over the next four years, in addition to a temporary 1 percent sales tax that likely would last for a little more than two years to help fund the new police building.

But City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said he worried about sales tax levels in the community and was concerned that if a new sales tax were added, there would be political pressure to extend its once its original term expired.

“I think you would have to view it as likely being a permanent change,” Cromwell said.

Commissioners did direct staff members to investigate whether there would be ways to debt finance a new police facility over a longer term. Some commissioners said they would be willing to consider raising the city’s self-imposed debt limit make room for the $30 million facility. City Commissioner Mike Amyx, though, indicated he would fight any such effort.

“I think raising the debt limit should absolutely be our last option,” Amyx said.

Amyx also was the one commissioner who said the city may need to think about taking money that currently is being discussed to pay for the regional recreation center and shifting it to the police project.

“I think it might be time to look at priorities and really start balancing what is a want and what is a need right now,” Amyx said.

Other commissioners, though, did not show any signs of backing off the recreation center project. Later in the meeting, commissioners unanimously directed staff members to negotiate contracts with GouldEvans and with the consulting firm of Convention Sports and Leisure International to study the potential economic impact of the facility.

Commissioners also set a tentative date of Aug. 7 to receive a more detailed briefing on possible agreements with Duane and Steve Schwada, who have proposed donating 50 acres for the project, and with Thomas Fritzel, who has proposed developing the recreation center on a lease purchase agreement for the city.

As envisioned, the project still would include about a 160,000-square-foot recreation center/youth fieldhouse, along with an outdoor track and field stadium and a soccer field that would be operated by Kansas University but would be located on ground owned by the city


Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

Our sales tax is already one of the highest in the country, and unlike many states, it includes food. With Brownback's recent tax changes, poor folks no longer get a sales tax food credit. We're right there with Mississippi, I think. And that is nothing to be proud of.

We all pay way too much sales tax, but it hurts the disadvantaged more than the rest of us.

Property tax in Douglas County is already high.

Enough is enough. If we can't afford it, and require a tax increase to build it, then in my humble opinion, it shouldn't be built.

skinny 5 years, 7 months ago

No more taxes! Lets get the library paid for first! Then, mayby, just maybe we'll have a new building built for the Police Dept.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

If the city commissioners really want this mega-rec center, why not put it at the former Farmland site, which they already own? This would stimulate further development on land that the city is already obligated to provide water, sewer and other services for, and they can use the same funding stream, already in place, that would otherwise go to the W. Lawrence location.

MasterShake 5 years, 7 months ago

That would put it on the "wrong" side of town. E. Lawernce has the jail and pending homeless shelter. A nice rec center would not belong in that part of town.

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

that's where Cromwell's poo power plant is supposed to go

bendover61 5 years, 7 months ago

Let's build a Rec Center with a Police Station and a Library. That should only cost about $100 Million or so, but we would be the only city with that combination. People would come from all over the country to experience it, our hotels would be full and our retail would boom.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

It's how tax dollars are spent and if how they are spent does it increase taxes?

It's a lot about how taxpayers are left out of very large tax dollar spending decisions at all levels of local government.

For instance the $100 million dollar sewage plant should be approved by the voters because local special interests are driving the issue for their own personal profiteering. Do taxpayers want to spend $100,000,000(million) that will only bring on more new tax dollar expenses?

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

NOT necessary city growth is the result of over several decades of subsidies paid for by the local taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town and KILL downtowns.

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

How we subsidize profiteers:

  • building new and wider roads
  • building schools on the fringe
  • extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development
  • extending emergency services to the fringe • direct pay-outs to developers - for example developers of the new building at 9th and New Hampshire have taxpayers furnishing their tenants with parking spaces built with our tax dollars.
  • etc etc etc etc

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The country and state is in an economic disaster created by the GOP and Lawrence is blowing money like there is no tomorrow.

Lawrence,Kansas... home to a never ending tax dollar money hole and stinky water. The more Lawrence expands the larger the tax dollar money hole. Why?

The community has never stopped expanding long enough to catch up with the ever expanding cost of paying for the helter skelter growth decisions. In other words Lawrence has never been in a position where new growth is paying for itself.

Unfriendly to business and homeowners. All we hear is increasing taxes more and more and more to pay for mismanagement.

Stop expanding! Take care of taxpayer owned assets! Assets going into demolition by neglect is reckless management!

There are plenty of taxpayer assets such as streets,sidewalks,water lines,sewer lines that need rehab which could create plenty of employment for two years at least. New infrastructure only adds miles and miles and miles of NEW tax dollar responsibility with no means of paying for it.

Stop the neglect across the board!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 7 months ago

Care to tell us about your $640K bicycle crossing and being frugal Merrill?

blindrabbit 5 years, 7 months ago

Operated by Kansas University?; I'd be a bit concerned about KU dominating the facility. The Athletic Department (in the Past) has not always been the most accomodating when it comes to sharing with the community. Also, I'd be concerned if KU is planning to use the parking facilities at the Rec. Center to bus people to KU football and basketball games. I'd hate to see some big parking fee applied to those spaces to benefit the program and hamstring the community.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 7 months ago

Just to be clear, the track and soccer stadium would be operated by operated by Kansas University. The 160,000 square foot building would be operated by the city. Sorry if I didn't write that clearly. Thanks, Chad

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

KU boosts of a billion dollar endowment and we saw how much money KU could come up with from endowment funds to ruin the Campanile Hill so isn't the cost of the entire project pocket change for KU and their developer partners in this project?

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

Well when the megalomaniacs were running the show at KUAC they solicited funds from big dollar alumni and put their names on buildings so they would live on forever in ku history, even if it was a total disaster of a project. Surely they can do the same, shoot start by seeing if Schwada or Fritzel are willing to donate money to the cause. We shouldn't have to bail out developers who should plan for downturns in the economy.

EJ Mulligan 5 years, 7 months ago

I wish we (LJW and the rest of us) would stop calling this West Lawrence sports project a "rec center." In so few, if any, senses of the word is this a "rec center" in the terms of the East Lawrence Rec Center or the traditional sense. This is a sports complex for which a majority of Lawrence residents will never have any use. Make the terminology represent the project.

Tomato 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree. The more I hear about the "rec center," the more disappointing it becomes. It clearly does not fulfill any "recreation" needs/wants of regular citizens in Lawrence.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

It isn't a rec center any more. It's a "sports village".

"City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting directed staff members to continue pushing ahead with a proposal to build what is now being termed a “sports village” at the northwest corners of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway."

fu7il3 5 years, 7 months ago

Every year since I've moved here they have spent money on one major project or another. I suggest a five year moratorium on projects like these. I don't have any more money to give this place.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure I understand the need for such an expensive expansion of the police department, but as a matter of priorities, it seems to me that it should be more important, if necessary, than a new sports complex.

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

Isn't Cromwell married into the Fritzel family? Is he allowed to vote on this project if he is?

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

is this true? if it is, wow, things just started adding up really fast

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

Aren't people in Lawrence aware of that?

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

I didn't, but if true it make the comparison to Brownback even more pertinent.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 7 months ago

I think Cromwell's wife is Joel Fritzel's daughter.

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

Nothing fishy about all that. Wasn't Cromwell the one pushing the most for this megaplex when he was mayor? Gosh, one prior commissioner doing under the table deals with a company she was invested in (and teaching leadership now) and now a commissioner pushing projects that has family connections. One that was digging for his wallet in the bottom of an outhouse. A trash service that was doing just fine thrown under the bus for service from a KC company with interesting ties. Amazing what can happen in a town with only one newspaper that is more interested in asking people silly questions on the street instead of serious investigative reporting.

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

The police station out west is in another building of one of the former star businesses in Lawrence that has been taken over by the city. How much have businesses that left Lawrence ended up costing this city? Farmland is the other example.

Bozo is right on the money where a sports complex should be and so much closer to KC as well but it is pretty obvious what the real goal of this megaplex is. Have our developers and commissioners have no sense of decency as they continue to fleece the city?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 7 months ago

Bozo is not right. If it is to be built, it needs to have plenty of access. The Farmland site, due to the flower children that don't want the SLT built has rendered it virtually useless for anything that demands high traffic flows. As a sports venue, the new complex would be a wonderful addition. Built on the Topeka side of town, it would still need to compete for non sporting events like concerts, motocross, rodeo, and the like with Livestrong park, Starlight, Sandstone and the other smaller venues like Midland. With it being built snuggled up to the K10 Bypass there is easy access both east and west to I-70. If it is going to be built, the current site is the best that has been looked at.

I wonder though, is this one of those things where the city spends 20 million because 1 million has been offered (Use or loose) and the thinkers have thought this way out of its original intent? Frankly, I would much rather have this facility than the library, the homeless shelter, train depot, buying the salvation army building and the other tax dollar money leeches we so so so enjoy in this town. At least this project has the potential to at least somewhat support its self.

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

bingo. nail on the head. This is one of the rare projects that has the potential to really pay off for the city.

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

This is turning into less of a rec center and more of an event center that as you say has competition nearby in larger cities with the population base to support it makes it even a less practical idea.

If this is such a great idea and the seed to building even more hotels and shopping centers and then let the developers do it all on their own dime. It is fascinating to live in a town that touts its business class leadership skills yet they can't do anything without government involvement. If they are such great business people why can't they figure out how to make a profit on things scaled to the size of Lawrence? You said it will need to compete but that is not what a city government does, that is the private sector, the city is suppose to take care of all the things you don't think should be supported.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 7 months ago

If Carter is not a local resident, how do we boot him off the commission?

pizzapete 5 years, 7 months ago

Don't we already have a world class sports complex in Lawrece? I think it's called The University of Kansas.

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

I'd much rather have the rec center than the parking garage or police taj mahal, but this city seriously needs to slow down. I have never seen a place spend money like Lawrence has the last few years. It's ridiculous.,

NutsForKU 5 years, 7 months ago

If only we were simply talking about a rec center.

Bill_Slu 5 years, 7 months ago

I have the perfect compromise!

Let the police have the 'upgraded' Library for a home. There will be plenty of room. Also, when we get to the stage of book burning (just like the Germans in the 30's) the police will be right there to lend a helping hand.

Problem solved.


hipper_than_hip 5 years, 7 months ago

Horizon 2020 says the rec center land is to be reserved for industrial development; is this not our governing development document? The city and the chamber keep complaining that Lawrence/Douglas County is falling behind in industrial development, so why are we throwing this site under the bus? Are occasional sports tournaments more desirable than long term employment and growth?

JackMcKee 5 years, 7 months ago

industrial development? lol. do you see any industrial development in Lawrence?

Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

Horizon 2020 is a planning document. It is for reference. Lots of effort goes into the document, and the plan allows dollars to flow from federal funds and other sources. The problem is that no one refers to the document.

blindrabbit 5 years, 7 months ago

Rec. Center Library Upgrade Salvation Army Building Purchase/Art's Center Upgrade New Police Headquarters Farmland Purchase and Upgrade New Homeless Shelter New Sewage Treatment Plant New Lawrence Community Theater

Who said the City is in the process of spending big money!

John Sickels 5 years, 7 months ago

Look, I usually love public works projects and things that enhance the community, but I do NOT like this rec center idea right now. Brownback's insane tax cut is going to bankrupt the state and force huge budget cuts (which is why he pushed it through), and local communities are going to have to pick up the tab to keep essential services going.

The city needs to be sitting on cash right now, hoarding cash and paying off debt as fast as possible. We're gonna need that money just to keep essential services going once Brownie's tax plan kicks in.

John Sickels 5 years, 7 months ago

The theatre and the new library are enough for now. We need to digest those.

If it came down to a police upgrade or the rec center, I would have to go with the police upgrade as well.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Because keeping people safe is a central and necessary part of city government, while sports facilities are luxuries.

bendover61 5 years, 7 months ago

The golf course still isn't paid off and is being supplemented with tax payer dollars. The city leaders were told at the time that the course would not support itself but the leaders knew better.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

There was a specific list of projects to be paid for with the 1c sales tax. I think the county health department facility was one of them. A rec center is the last project to be developed, although I do not think the current project is what voters had in mind. Since the city and county neglected to put a sunset on the tax, broad interpretation of the tax is beginning to happen. Watch. Even after the rec center is built, there will be a rationale to continue the tax. To repeal the tax, would we have to propose a new referendum?

COjayrocks 5 years, 7 months ago

This project will make its money off of everything EXCEPT the 160,000 sq. ft 'rec center'. The real money-maker for the city will be the track, soccer field, and bball courts for a supersized Jayhawk Invitation AAU tourney that Lawrence traditionally hosts until this past year.

As far as we are concerned the 'wellness center', weight rooms, and rec rooms are just filler. People need to realize the benefit of this project is not in the amenities but in the events and money it will attract into Lawrence for AAU, youth track events, mid American youth soccer events, Big XII Track sectionals and finals, AAU track events, Kansas Relays, etc. etc. Stop whining about if the facility is going to serve senior citizens for classes or if it needs to have more open gym time like I've heard on so many Rec Center article's comments.

Wait until you see the potential economic boom this will create from the tourism dollars. VERY high ceiling here for the potential for an influx of cash for local businesses.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

If you're right, then they shouldn't have marketed it as a "rec center" for the city.

And, what if you're wrong, and the expected profits don't materialize?

Saying we need a "rec center", and then turning it into a huge "sports complex" is called "bait and switch".

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

And I see there's still no mention of who gets to keep the alleged profits from all the supposed tournaments. I bet it won't be the city. The city will get to pay for utilities and employees, though. Why no mention of operating costs?

COjayrocks 5 years, 7 months ago

If 5,000-10,000 people flood into the city for an athletic event (Kansas Relays, AAU Jayhawk Invitational, etc) how does the city not get the profits? The profit is not in ticket sales, it's in shopping revenue, restaurant bills, gas, etc, etc. It benefits the entire city. period.

COjayrocks 5 years, 7 months ago

No one is trying to trick you when the masterplans are open to the public. The project grew, it didn't change. Evolution happens with every mixed-use development.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

It was marketed as a "rec center", and now you call that part of the project "just filler".

puddleglum 5 years, 7 months ago

sure, just keep telling yourself that...

the rest of us know it all too well; bait and switch

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

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Patricia Davis 5 years, 7 months ago

Just another big time example of making risk/loss public and making profit private. If this is the best idea since sliced bread, let developers bake it. With looming Brownbackistan, we need to save our money for essential government services (good tasting water anyone?). We have the probability of school bonds being required. The public already swallowed the 20 year bond for the library that is posing as a parking lot (Joni Mitchell ironic twister here).

The city government (who apparently can't bill water in an accurate manner) and the commissioners are just banking on the public's inertia to have this big dream happen. Time to step away from the computer and start planning a revolt, I'd say.

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