Archive for Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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

November 13, 2012


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.


lunacydetector 4 years ago

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

Richard Heckler 4 years 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.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

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

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.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

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

Sharon Nottingham 4 years 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.

Pepe 4 years ago

Exactly. This whole situation reeks, but the fishiest aspect is the refusal to use an open bid process. I see no downside to an open bid process and a lot of potential upside to the taxpayers. The refusal to use an open bid process should be a deal breaker, IMO.

Richard Heckler 4 years 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.

Anthony Mall 4 years 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!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years 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?

deec 4 years ago

Even, better, if it is such a guaranteed money-maker, why isn't some enterprising private businessman building and operating it?

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Well, if the source of the revenue is in the form of increased sales taxes from the increased business activity the facility generates, and not from the facility itself, then it would not be something a private businessman would do. Unless of course, that private businessman could collect all the sales taxes from restaurants, hotels, T-shirts shops. Add in the new jobs created and their spending with the businessman collecting all the taxes they produce. But that's not what you're suggesting, is it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Not even the city expects to pay for this through increased tax collections.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Then maybe the city shouldn't participate in this project.

However, each new dollar that comes into this community can be expected to be spent 8 times. Each time it's spent, it's taxed. With all these transactions, merchants will need employees to accommodate that commerce.

I'm making an assumption that jobs in Lawrence is something we all benefit from and something we should all be striving for. Facilitating job creation, even in the private sector, is a legitimate function of government.

We all know that not every government function needs turn a profit. We operate the "T", libraries, fund shelters, lots of things. Those are legitimate functions of government. If a determination is made that there is an overall net benefit, do it. If not, then don't.

deec 4 years ago

Creating a bunch of part-time low-wage no-benefit jobs in hotels, restaurants and stores will do next to nothing to raise the standard of living for those working those jobs.

If the project was economically feasible without subsidies, some astute developer would have built it and operated it themselves. The rhetoric about it creating jobs and hypothetical tax revenue is a smokescreen for yet another taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle. I'd think those of you in Lawrence would be about tired of paying ever-increasing property taxes so that a few rich guys can get richer.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

"Creating a bunch of part-time low-wage no benefit jobs in hotels, restaurants and stores will do next to nothing to raise the standard of living for those working those jobs".

Did I miss something? Did some manufacturing plant decide to build a factory here in Lawrence providing hundreds of high wage union jobs with full benefits? No, deec, I didn't miss something. If the choice is bad or worse, then you choose bad. Low wage jobs are better than no jobs.

Besides, Lawrence is awash with young people looking for just those sorts of jobs. People who work at a restaurant during their freshman year, a clothing store their sophomore year, desk clerk at a hotel their junior year, bartender their senior year and they're gone the next. Even if those high wage union jobs with full benefits existed, which they don't, but even if they did, we have many who are not in any position to accept that type of job.

But, hey, deec, if you want to build such a factory, providing hundreds of high paying union jobs with full benefits, not only will you have my full support, I'd even be in favor of giving you some abatements, given the overall benefit to the community. Will you build such a factory, deec? Will you?

Pepe 4 years 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.

bmoody51 4 years ago

Commissioner Mike Amyx was the voice of reason.

jhawkinsf 4 years 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.

joe915 4 years ago

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

Jeremiah Jefferson 4 years ago

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

Richard Heckler 4 years 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.

John Hamm 4 years ago

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

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Using that argument, the vote for the rec. center was held when we had city commission elections.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Hardly-- Republicans spent literally $billion making Obamacare the litmus issue in that election (they even did it in state legislature races, where it's largely irrelevant) and they lost that bet.

This rec center wasn't even remotely an issue in the last city commission election, since it hadn't even been proposed.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

I'm happy you're in this forum to correctly interpret the will and intent of every voter in this nation.

I seem to remember something said about foreign relations, obstructionism in Washington, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, education, debt ceilings, fiscal cliffs, etc. But you've synthesized it all down to Obamacare and gotten down to the root of what that election means, as opposed to your astute interpretation of what every voter in Lawrence intended when they voted for the city commissioners.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

It wasn't all about Obamacare, but that issue clearly eclipsed all others, by the Republicans' own doing, whether you care to acknowledge that or not.

What's truly indisputable is that this rec center wasn't an issue in the last city commission election. Certainly no more than Obamacare was an issue in 2008.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Eclipsed all others. Pulling stuff out of thin air, or a dark place. Obstructionism in Washington, taxes, debt, national security, foreign policy. Eclipsed it all, huh.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

It was without a doubt the poster child for Republicans in this election. And it failed to get as much traction that they wanted.

Tim Herndon 4 years 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).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

This was NOT an issue in the last city commission election. And a vote taken 18 years ago that has financed several very major projects since that vote doesn't provide carte blanche to this commission to now drop all available financing for parks and rec for the next couple of decades on a single project whose value is greater than all previous projects over the last 18 years COMBINED.

And really, does KUAC/Endowment really think that the city can't be trusted to oversee a quality construction? At any rate, it'll be the city's building, not theirs.

The more reasonable conclusion is that this is an inside deal among well-connected folks looking to line their pockets at taxpayer expense.

George Lippencott 4 years 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?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years 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.

lwctown 4 years ago

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

Commenting has been disabled for this item.