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Archive for Tuesday, November 13, 2012

City agrees to begin contract negotiations on $25M recreation center

November 13, 2012

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Tayler Tolefree, a middle blocker on Kansas University’s nationally ranked volleyball team, grew up playing the sport in Topeka.

The problem is, she told Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night, she grew up in Lawrence.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting took their biggest step yet toward committing to a $25 million city recreation center/youth fieldhouse in northwest Lawrence after about 35 KU student-athletes and a host of other community members told stories of how the community’s indoor recreation spaces were sorely lacking.

“I really became excited when I heard about this project,” Tolefree said, “because I know it can represent the heart of sports activity in Lawrence.”

A majority of Lawrence city commissioners also agreed the project may end up representing something else: a great deal. Commissioners on a 4-1 vote directed staff members to begin crafting formal agreements to commit to building the project with the Kansas University Endowment Association.

“We know this project is going to guarantee us a world-class facility on a municipal budget,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said. “That is an opportunity I can’t turn down.”

Commissioners agreed to begin crafting agreements that would allow the project to be built on about 100 acres north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. In addition to a 181,000-square-foot, eight-gym recreation center/youth fieldhouse, the project also would include KU-owned facilities for track and field, softball and soccer.

City commissioners have conducted preliminary negotiations with KU Endowment that cap the city’s cost for the project at $25 million. For that price, the city would receive the recreation center, eight lighted tennis courts, about five kilometers of multipurpose trails, and would own the building and the 20 acres of real estate that houses the city facilities.

The city is estimating its portion of the project will have a market value of about $33.5 million, even though the city would pay only $25 million for the project. KU Endowment and its donors would pick up the additional cost of the project. KU also would be responsible for paying for the KU-owned facilities that would be part of the sports complex.

The deal, though, has details unusual for a city project. KU Endowment is insisting that it build the building using its own contractor rather than allowing the city to put the recreation center construction out for bid. KU Endowment is planning to use a development group led by Lawrence builder Thomas Fritzel.

Several members of the public said the city didn’t have enough details about the arrangements between KU Endowment and various private parties to move forward with such a large project.

“I’m feeling very nervous about the enormity of this project and how much it costs,” Lawrence resident Tom Harper said. “And there are so many moving parts to that I’m a little overwhelmed by it.”

But supporters of the project outnumbered opponents on Tuesday night. About 35 female athletes from KU showed up at City Hall to show support for the project. Commissioners also heard from parents of Lawrence children who said the city had fallen far behind what other communities offer in terms of indoor recreation space.

Commissioners have been told by consultants that the 181,000-square-foot recreation center can attract regional and perhaps even national youth tournaments to the city. A report earlier this year estimated about 30 tournaments and camps a year could use the center.

But on Tuesday, commissioners sought to downplay those projections.

“I believe the economic benefits of this facility will be real, but I’m not relying on those numbers to make this decision,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “I’m thoroughly convinced of the community need for this center. First and foremost, this center will serve the recreation needs of this community.”

City staff members are expected to work on crafting formal agreements for the project over the next several weeks. Those agreements will be brought back to city commissioners for review and approval.

Comments

lwctown 1 year, 5 months ago

Hmmm...I think I see a great way to save $25 million.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

I suspect that one reason they don't want to put this to a vote is because it would likely have to coincide with the city commission elections, which will happen in March and April.

That would make it THE primary issue. So, not only could the Mover and Shaker faction lose the referendum, on the coattails of that referendum they could also lose those seats on the commission.

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George Lippencott 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, I see my decision to not go in person to protest this extravaganza was well advised. The proponents stuffed the box.

Those with a moneyed interest and those who might use it are certainly welcome to proclaim their support. I wonder how many of the students will be around to pay the tax after graduation? In fact, I wonder how many of the developers/builders will stay around after they make their “millions”. I bet they all head out to warmer climes and leave those wedded to good old Lawrence to pay the bill.

Whatever, given our small civic facilities that put the rest of us in the parking lot. Isn’t Democracy grand?

Mr. Carter has a strange understanding of democracy. Twenty years ago somebody voted for a series of improvements. Now he argues that vote binds those of us not even born to continue to pay for a new and only slightly related structure. I wonder how many of our “lawgivers” will be around to pay for this?

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Bucksilver 1 year, 5 months ago

This was forced to a vote in 1994 when tax revenue was set aside for such projects. This was forced to a vote two City Commissions ago, when a comprehensive assessment of Park & Rec needs was produced. This was brought to a vote when the current City Commission was elected as our representative government.

As the principal benefactor to a project benefitting both KU and Lawrence residents, KU understandably demands control of the architecture and the contractor to ensure the highest standards will be used (reference other campus buildings, including sports facilities). If the builder happens to be Fritzel Construction, that's even better -- a local employer with local employees.

Thanks to all the City Commissioners for doing what they're elected to do; thank goodness we're moving forward (as opposed to having NOnew library, NO new downtown development, NO new SLT, NO new 15th St. interchange, NO new Community Theater, etc. ...Which is apparently precisely where we'd be if the blogosphere were in charge).

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OonlyBonly 1 year, 5 months ago

Isn't there some way to force this to a vote?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Mike Amyx voted for a project on the city owned property near the high school.

It's like Corliss said if tax growth ever hits 1% this community has got problems. Tax growth has been chugging along at 3%-3.5%. Corliss I believe was basing his numbers on a 2% growth.

If republicans in Washington and Topeka keep getting in the way anything can happen even a 1% tax growth.

The fact that this economy is STILL measured in a big way by housing starts tells me politicians are off their rockers.

When I hear local politicians getting excited over the "the change" in this economy in the past few months it tells me they are trying to sell us something. 11-17 million people still need decent paying long term employment which is not just around the corner.

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catfishturkeyhunter 1 year, 5 months ago

What contract negotiations... I thought they said Snitzel was going to build it???

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joe915 1 year, 5 months ago

Does anyone know which commissioner voted against this project? The article states a 4-1 vote in support of proposal.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 5 months ago

I'd be interested in the reactions of people who attended last night's city commission meetings, especially those who went into the meeting with an open mind.

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Pepe 1 year, 5 months ago

Who is the one good commissioner who voted against it? That guy should stay but the rest of them should get voted out next election.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 5 months ago

Basically KU is telling the city we are going to build a $33 mil propject and you can buy it for $25 mil and the city thinks this is a great deal. Have you seen the the late night tv infommercials where the guy says he bought a house with nothing down and made $50,000? It's the same thing. On paper there is a $8mil up side but its only a real gain if someone pays $33mil for it which won't happen. The second issue is KU controls the build out. Any builder in this situation is going to use the lowest grade and cheapest building material possible. Using bare minimum building standards and cutting every corner possible. Like I said, this is a dog with fleas and our leaders are being blinded by this infommercial real estate way of thinking. BTW, at the end of day, I would bet the cost is well under the $25 mil price tag. Email the commissioners and let them know what you think. I vote 'NO' but if the majority wants it, build it.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

“We know this project is going to guarantee us a world-class facility on a municipal budget,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said. “That is an opportunity I can’t turn down.”

“I believe the economic benefits of this facility will be real, but I’m not relying on those numbers to make this decision,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “I’m thoroughly convinced of the community need for this center. First and foremost, this center will serve the recreation needs of this community.”


If this is such a slam-dunk great deal, why are you so afraid of making that case to the taxpayers of Lawrence, and then letting them vote on it?

BTW, whose vote was against? I guessing Amyx. Is that correct?

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reality_check79 1 year, 5 months ago

Why do the same idiots who lie to the city continue to get work in this town??? Amazed that Lawrence hands out projects to the same 4-5 idiots who already own half the city!!! Talk about corrupt city govt. Ridiculous!!!

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toe 1 year, 5 months ago

Non-revenue sports represented in the form of eye candy show up to encourage spending of city residents money on their games. I think emails between city commissioners and the KU athletes should be checked.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

City Hall will not mess with KU. In spite of the fact nothing has been put in writing. It will be interesting to see if what transpired at the commission meeting will be reflected in the final agreements.

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Sharon Nottingham 1 year, 5 months ago

ku insists on using fritzel for our community rec proposal? No. KU can insist on that for their own buildings, but for our taxpayer buildings we deserve an open bidding process as well as a ballot question.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

About commerce ... does anyone know of any Rubbermaid buildings or cabinets for sale?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Should the public taxpayers have the opportunity to vote on the $25 million Field House Project aka PLAY?

http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2012/nov/do-you-think-public-should-have-opportunity-vote-p/results/

I assume that the upcoming elections will produce some concern about the taxpayers ability to be wayyyyy more involved in the spending of OUR money.

Taxpayer participation needs to be in ordinance form to protect our tax dollars. Considering an "ordinance" or some such document was passed to bypass voter approval on tax dollar projects according to city hall last night. Time to reverse that agreement as well as the document that allows city government to BAN protest documents. Local big government in action.

After all it is the taxpayers that are responsible for backing up $12 million $$$ tax dollar exemptions , the $20 million USD 497 athletic investment and a potentially $40-$50 million $$$ field house project. There will plenty of expenses once the this project is given to taxpayers.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

" Commissioners also heard from parents of Lawrence children who said the city had fallen far behind what other communities offer in terms of indoor recreation space."

Johnson County Metro has a much larger tax base. I suggest some parents move to Johnson County simply because a small town tax base has never been able to keep up with a tax base of 2 million people. Lawrence is a tax base of about 68,000.

Do a majority of taxpayers want the city commission to spend 25 million tax $$$$ in this fashion? Apparently it is irrelevant.

I've not heard any voices against a neighborhood rec center.

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mikekt 1 year, 5 months ago

I am not wanting to be hard on others or call them names. Just bewildered by this willingness to spend at this moment so freely while others could use our help and Brownie is billing us for nothing and whatever, more or less. I just do not get it! Enlighten me please, as i am slow to get it!

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mikekt 1 year, 5 months ago

Just demand compensation because you must do whatever! Do not be outdone! They might just pay you! Ha, ha, ha!

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mikekt 1 year, 5 months ago

Just sharing their joke on us!

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mikekt 1 year, 5 months ago

If the negotiators don't give away the farm, building that is not the end of reality, for me. I'll probably be dead of old ages effects, anyway, before they ever pay $ that off. But, It seems as if 75K people around here, will pay, in whatever $ way, for the privileges, that a hand full of 35 ", or whoever", want, at a time when the economy is gone to heck' in a hand basket, for many other folks and Brownie is passing the bills back to Lawrence, without a bottle of antacids ( a regular guy like george w bush-happy deficits! Hope you have a political party hat & a horn to blow, or others money to in debt or blow !!!! How funny is it, .........to call those who are pushing this project along, "as being slow"; because they also should have asked the council for a free car, a free home , as well as a Chauffeur or an armored car to drivet whoever to the bank, with their future $ winnings at the public feed trough off this, is REALLY what they need. PLEASE !!!!!!!! God bless the KU Endowment for the $ & i know that without KU, Lawrence would be a ghost town. Lived in so. O.P. for years. 20 miles to downtown KC. 40 miles to KCI airport, easily. I deserve compensation for my choices of avoiding midtown KC's lifestyle challenges and being with in 1 miles distance from a Walmart, Super Target, Costco, 3 big grocers who failed to consider that the preceding stores were coming to reduce their numbers to one, 119th shopping, two Hospitals, where schools were stable and property values held if you just kept things up.

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lunacydetector 1 year, 5 months ago

what exactly is the city negotiating? the contracts seem to be just a formality.

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