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Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2012

Residents get answers on proposed rec center

Lawrence City Manager David Corliss discusses plans for a proposed new city recreation center at a public meeting Thursday night at Lawrence Free State High School.

Lawrence City Manager David Corliss discusses plans for a proposed new city recreation center at a public meeting Thursday night at Lawrence Free State High School.

November 8, 2012

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Roughly 100 people took advantage of an opportunity Thursday night to take a closer look at plans for a proposed new recreation center in northwest Lawrence and to ask city officials about the details.

Among their questions at a open house event at Free State High School: What will the city get for a proposed $25 million cost, to be paid to the KU Endowment Association as part of an agreement? How will this benefit me if I live on the other side of town? And why, if the city goes forward with the proposed Endowment agreement, would developer Thomas Fritzel serve as a general contractor without going through a normal bidding process?

Several residents asked variations of that last one to Lawrence City Manager David Corliss, one of several city staff members who manned different question stations.

Corliss explained that the deal offered by the Endowment Association specified that Fritzel would serve in that capacity. And the potential agreement offered the city an opportunity to build a long-needed recreational center while also providing a positive economic impact.

And in addition to all that, city officials believe they’d be getting additional value: officials have estimated total costs of the center at $33.5 million, but the Endowment Association would require a lump payment of only $25 million.

“There is an opportunity with this project that is probably unique,” Corliss told the group around him.

In addition, he said that though under the Endowment agreement the city would not put the project out for bids, the Endowment Association had offered to make bidding processes transparent.

In a letter sent to the city Thursday from KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling, he wrote that the city could have the opportunity to review bids received from potential subcontractors by the Endowment and Fritzel’s group, though after the winning bids have already been selected.

The letter also invited the city to retain a construction monitor to keep an eye on the project as it sees fit.

Lawrence residents Kent and Karen Shrack said as they left the event they hoped the city would work to ensure it received a solid value for its investment.

“I think the word we want is ‘fair,’” Karen Shrack said.

‘Turning kids away’

Resident Jim Joyce came to the open house, he said, to get his first look at floor plans for the proposed center to be located on the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

He asked Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Shaw why the center couldn’t include more general workout space rather than being largely devoted to eight full-sized basketball courts. But Shaw said one of the driving factors for a new recreation center was that the city needed badly to add more gyms for youth sports.

“We’re turning kids away now,” Shaw said.

Shaw said that according to industry recommendations, a city Lawrence’s size should have about 20 more public basketball courts than it does. Tournaments and other events at the proposed center could help offset costs, he said, but he hoped for the primary focus on be on serving the community.

When another resident asked how the center would serve other parts of the city if it’s located on the city’s northwest corner, Corliss noted it should free up the city’s other recreation centers, making gyms more freely available instead of being fully booked with scheduled events much of the time.

“We’re a community that shares different resources,” Corliss said.

Resident Carolyn Crawford, who lives near the proposed center’s location, said she came to the event to get a look at the plans. She had hoped that the portions of the proposed Rock Chalk Park that would be controlled with KU would still feel welcoming and open, and the plans suggested to her that would be the case.

She credited the city for listening to residents’ concerns while it planned the proposed center, and said she fully supported it.

“I think that it’s a good value,” Crawford said.

The City Commission will consider the proposed center further at its meeting Tuesday, when it will have the option to ask staff to prepare more detailed plans and agreements involving the KU-inclusive site. It will also have the option to move forward with plans for a city-only facility to be located at Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive, plans for which were also made available at Thursday’s public meeting.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 5 months ago

Did someone really say that the west side needed facilities to equal the other parts of town? So when is KUEA. Going to build a homeless shelternwest? When is payday loan opening west? When is a jail annex going west? When is Edgewood West. Opening? Can u spell SCAM? And Wilbur is betting the total operational costs could push 1 million a year plus the loan payment!

Dolph will endorse the project!

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

toe..... You figured it out. This is a Self perk.

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toe 1 year, 5 months ago

Done deal. Waste of time talking about it. KU and City are lockstep. Self wants a legacy besides basketball. All are obliged to give him one.

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Nikonman 1 year, 5 months ago

1) I'm not sure the loophole will fly with the NCAA. They may see it for what it is, then what? 2) Why does KUAC & KUEA want to build this so far from the main campus? You think attendance is down for such minor sports now, wait until it's built, than look at the attendance. 3) Who will control the parking. Will it be KU Parking and Transit? They usually can't wait to get their hands into your wallet. 4) Why can't existing property on KU's west campus be used for this project? 5) The last I heard, KU gets about 30 % of the Kansas State budget. Will this continue forever or will the legislature finally figure out that the taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth.

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Ami 1 year, 5 months ago

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend last night. I know the city talked about helping and giving the west side what is provided for the rest of the town residents, but I don’t know if that has been answered last night: Is it planned as place for the kids/teens to hang our? Will there be open access? How will they get there? The bus doesn’t run west of Wakarusa and the traffic is very hectic on the way there I didn’t understand the Gym thing in the initial plan there was a Gym and walking trail are they still there? Other than Basketball courts, what else will be there? Do you have copy of the plans presented last night? Will residents have free access? Always as it is in the city rec centers or just sometime?

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EJ Mulligan 1 year, 5 months ago

The city just did an analysis of the water system and determined that 80% of the water mains in Lawrence need to be replaced in the next several years, to the tune of multiple million dollars. Between that and the library, there is nothing close to a need to spend $25 million MORE for a good ol' boys loophole of a sports facility that will never recoup enough for this town.

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rockchalker52 1 year, 5 months ago

I like the whole concept. I hope people figure out a way to get it done. As a facility, it is of great benefit to the public & also stimulates our local economy. I think that benefits me directly, but even if it didn't, I would not object to a reasonable amount of my tax dollars supporting this project for my community.

Get this done & get that North Lawrence River Walk thing done & first thing you know, there are a lot more reasons to buy, stay & play local.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 5 months ago

This is a scam from the get go. Dale Seuferling and the KUEA should be ashamed for dumping this project onto the locals for infinity to support. Annual maintenanace, staffing, and for sure after the first year, upgrades or faulty construction. Look back at Babcock Place, year after year. Anything the city touches falls apart within 12 months and the school district as well. Which by the way, how does the district explain the dumping for scrap of two truckloads of school desks and chairs yesterday Nov 8, 2012. The J/W won't cover that waste of public assets.

If this center is really worth 33.5 million , then buiild it , sell it and the city pockets 8.5 million. Take that "profit' from public private partner ship and build another one and have only 17 million invested.

The City Commissioners cannot even keep up the streets, the infrastructure, even the simplest like parkinglots downtown which are public assets. And to think Schumm and Amyx are business people, well hardly!

I don't care if Fritzel builds it, but KUEA and KU Athletics and their donors can pay for it, staff it, maintain it and put the thing on the tax rolls. After all, they would be getting a break. If it is only taxed at 25 million and is worth 33.5 million.

The public in Lawrence is played for fools and if KU Jayhawk thinks it is a good deal, then move from Johnson County and live in Lawrence and pay the tax bill here. You got cheaper taxes in JOCO. don't worry about what Lawrrence is doing. You are not paying the bill for being fleeced here. KUEA is way out of control on this project.

Schumm and Amyx aren't flapping about being "had " on this deal. I cannot believe the 5 commissioners don't start acting responsibly with public money. Corliss was going to be a cheerleader when they hired him and he was going to bring new business. It looks like the only new business is the same old , same old. McCullough, hired in 2007 was going to streamline the planning process and development, well only for a few. He had a million dollar payroll when he was hired. What is it now? And construction is down. Where is his justification for more employees?

The operation is broke. The City Commission is desperate as Schumm says and wants to have notoriety. They have it alright, but it is no favorable.

KUEA needs to come clean on this and put some real dollars back into the community in the form of "giving back" as Fritzel claimed they were going to do. The only giving is going to be from the taxpayers for decades to come, to operate this unneeded project.

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turnright 1 year, 5 months ago

Reviewing Option A, provided by the city last night, one must wonder how traffic flows will occur. 1400 parking spaces are provided, with overflow capacity on grass. There are only two routes for entrance/exiting. Has KDOT approved this quantity of vehicular traffic onto 40 highway? Or is this still considered 6th street, which would become the problem of the City? Will the children need a crossing guard, perhaps? It's all about the kids, right?

Also, thank you Parks and Recreation for being sensitive to private membership health clubs. Your not wanting to compete with there business, will continue to provide minimum wage jobs to the few people they employ. Many members of the community enjoy full year memberships, paid in advance, to support local business. Unfortunately, many more are not able to provide that support. Yet you ask they support this effort for the entire community?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

How about this for a compromise-- KU Endowment and KUAC build this thing however they like, and after it's done, Lawrence citizens get six months to use the thing, after which they get to vote on whether they want to buy it for the $25 million.

If it's such a great deal, it should be an easy sell. But if Lawrence decides not to buy it, KU Endowment and KUAC can sell it to the highest private bidder, where they are almost certain to get $33 million for it. It's a win-win solution.

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow, the amount of double-talk in the project's sales pitch (and funding scheme) is amazing.

"Corliss explained that the deal offered by the Endowment Association specified that Fritzel would serve in that capacity." (as General Contractor)

"In addition, he (Corliss) said that though under the Endowment agreement the city would not put the project out for bids, the Endowment Association had offered to make bidding processes transparent." (Gee, thanks! AFTER they've already picked the winners.)

"In a letter sent to the city Thursday from KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling, he wrote that the city could have the opportunity to review bids received from potential subcontractors by the Endowment and Fritzel’s group, though after the winning bids have already been selected." (Gee, thanks again! The city can review the bids AFTER they've been awarded...by KU Endowment, on what will be a city-owned facility.)

"The City Commission will consider the proposed center further at its meeting Tuesday, when it will have the option to ask staff to prepare more detailed plans and agreements involving the KU-inclusive site. It will also have the option to move forward with plans for a city-only facility to be located at Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive, plans for which were also made available at Thursday’s public meeting." (Yes indeed, when that pair of bobwhites flush at your feet flying in opposite directions it can certainly confuse you, deciding which one you want to shoot first? Often they both escape -- or in this case, both get funded.)

My, my, my... If officials in the federal agency I retired from ever attempted a $25 million public project using the private agreement contracting mechanism that's in evidence here, officers in the Inspector General's Office would need to take a day off just to make sure all their handcuff hinges were properly oiled.

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fu7il3 1 year, 5 months ago

Endowment can't do it because KU athletics wants youth tournaments to be there and it would be an NCAA violation. We are basically being used as 25 million dollar recruiting loophole. I'm surprised more people haven't made a fuss about KU Endowment making Fritzel part of the deal when I believe he is a major donor to KU Athletics.

So, KU wants the city to pick up the tab and run things, but only if they pay a major donor to do it. The whole thing seems like a bad idea to me. Sure, a 35 million dollar project for 25 million is a good value, if you have 25 million extra dollars to spend. I could have sworn we were having budgetary issues and raising taxes to pay for buses, libraries, and such things already.

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alcoholbliss 1 year, 5 months ago

How many kids do, the commissioners plan on sponsoring out of pocket? League fees etc ? Or do they still plan on turning them away?

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Pepe 1 year, 5 months ago

"And in addition to all that, city officials believe they’d be getting additional value: officials have estimated total costs of the center at $33.5 million, but the Endowment Association would require a lump payment of only $25 million."

This doesn't seem to make any sense. If you can get $33.5 million in value by only spending $25 million, why would the endowment association not do this themselves? For that matter, if an investment of $25 million is somehow instantly worth $33.5 million, why wouldn't a private business take on this project themselves?

This whole thing is fishy as can be. In my view, the most worrisome part is the fact that this project will not be put up for open bidding. I see no downside to an open bidding process from the taxpayer's perspective and a lot of potential upside.

Our leaders need to say no to this, although I doubt this will happen.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

It is stunning how many show up on this chat board to support tax increases which by the way makes our wallets lighter.

This matter was has been led by the development/builder industry who by the way will do most anything to promote their industry with OUR tax dollars aka pork barrel spending.

The bottom line.

Adding miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure is like adding miles and miles and miles of new taxes. In a bedroom community this is not expanding the tax base it is expanding our tax bills.

Until Lawrence can afford to fund rehab of neighborhood streets and side walks how in the world can Lawrence afford to spend on new projects that truly add NEW expense for the community to maintain.

This is not sensible spending or sensible growth. It is reckless spending hoping it will stimulate another "boom town economy" which brings on super inflation and hikes personal property taxes beyond reality.

The T was put to the voters and was accepted by the majority of those who voted. All voters who wanted to vote did so.

--- A city's budget crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

If residential growth paid for itself? With increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

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Keith Richards 1 year, 5 months ago

Can you post the letter from KU Endowment to the City?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

The financing is Supply Side Economics. Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend , Borrow and Spend. Aka Deficit Spending.

Local taxpayers have become the defacto borrowing institution then we become the defacto lending institution as we are forced to finance reckless city pork barrel projects for the real estate executives and executives of the developer industry.

The debt never goes away.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Taxpayers want to vote on this PLAY project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

Lawrence,Kansas does not need more PLAY. Remember all of the over priced housing Lawrence was having no trouble unloading? WITHOUT this field house. No need for a field house.

Housing projects are slow in America and many more foreclosures are on the horizon. It's on the news.

Forget this PLAY field house. Be fiscal conservative and come up with a plan that does not require a $60 million input. Taxpayers we spent $20 million on PLAY by way of the school district.

This will be a tax dollar money hole just like field houses in most other cities. They don't pay back ever. What is the point of ADDING more to the list of taxpayer obligations?

Taxpayers want to vote on this project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

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