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Archive for Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Public split on plans for new rec center

City Commission pushes back vote on proposal

This architect rendering of the proposed recreation center in northwest Lawrence shows the 172,000-square-foot fieldhouse. The drawing was provided by Paul Werner Architects and GouldEvans.

This architect rendering of the proposed recreation center in northwest Lawrence shows the 172,000-square-foot fieldhouse. The drawing was provided by Paul Werner Architects and GouldEvans.

September 4, 2012

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At least one point about a proposed sports complex in northwest Lawrence became clearer Tuesday: The public is divided about the wisdom of the plan.

As for most of the other details about the proposal to locate a $24 million city recreation center and a KU track and soccer complex at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway? Well, it likely will be another two weeks before those are cleared up.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting deferred all votes on the proposal, and instead said they wanted to have more time to negotiate key agreements with private development groups led by Lawrence businessmen Duane Schwada and Thomas Fritzel.

Members of the public, though, didn’t wait to deliver their opinions. Commissioners took more than an hour’s worth of public comment, with significant numbers of people speaking for and against the project.

“I can honestly say I have never felt frightened by any of your decisions, until now,” said Melinda Henderson, a Lawrence resident. “This project scares the bejesus out of me.”

Several speakers said they worried the city would commit to the $24 million recreation center and then wish it had that money to deal with tough times that may come when the state tightens its budget. Others also mentioned the money could be used to help pay for a requested $40 million in improvements to the police force, or to cut property taxes.

About twice as many people spoke against the proposal as for it, but commissioners did hear from several people who said the project would address multiple needs for the city.

Some speakers said gym space has been sorely lacking in the city since the 1990s — when one remembered holding youth league basketball practices at 6 a.m. in the gym/cafeteria of Hillcrest School. Others said the community also is losing out on a chance to host large regional youth tournaments because it doesn’t have adequate facilities.

“But this is not just about bringing tournaments to town,” said Andy Pitts, a Lawrence resident who has children involved in youth sports. “This is about providing what this community deserves.”

City commissioners also were slightly divided on the issue. City Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wanted more details about how much cheaper it would be for the city to build a recreation center on 29 acres of land already owned by the city near Wakarusa and Overland drives.

City staff members said they could provide that information but noted the 29-acre site would not be large enough to accommodate any of the Kansas University components.

Commissioners said they were fine with getting the extra information, but four of the five commissioners said they were still very interested in having KU as a partner in the project.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

But please will someone explain how this is a gift from Fritzels? What are they giving to the community? A box! No bow! And we get stuck for 20 years paying 1,2 milion each year. This is a scam and not even wrapped in the finest hallmark gift wrap .

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werekoala 1 year, 7 months ago

As I have said before, we would save money in the long run by just openly running utilities to Fritzel & Scweda's new development for free, rather than dressing it up with the farcical justification of a ginormous rec center.

Not like the "altruistic" Job Creators will care, so long as they get theirs. And unless we are determined to repeat the mistakes of Eagle Bend, we should have learned that a single loss is better than a slow bleed.

In addition to the actual cost of a project, there is also the opportunity cost--the things we could have done with that money that we can no longer afford to do. So while the local big fish might miss out on a decent haul, the rest if us would instead be paying the mortgage on their fifth our sixth homes, while our streets grow steadily less safe.

The only question is, are the city commissioners skimming off enough to not care about re-election?

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

It's hard with oneeye but could someone photoshop a bow on that " gift ". ?And a.retty gift card to go with it. Make my day!

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blindrabbit 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh forgot to mention, the best part of the rendering are the clouds, they are very hard to make realistic. The bland building speaks well for the bland reputation of Kansas.

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blindrabbit 1 year, 7 months ago

Anf KU was supposed to have a top flight School of Architecture and Architectural Engineering. Looks like something I might have drawn in high school art class, and I was at the bottom of the class.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 7 months ago

Omit the second "l" from the headline & you've nailed this topic.

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 months ago

I am really tired of all the new rectangular architectural design in Lawrence. A long time ago, I worked in a factory that looked like this building. Lawrence has no style. These new buildings are all generic textbook designs.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

Where is the gift part of this scam? There is not even a bow on top of the rendering.Come on Mr. Werner, make it look like a "gift" package.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Using the 1994 sales tax dollars to accomplish the following would also be good use of tax dollars.

Using the infrastructure developed city owned property near Free State for the NW neighborhood rec center with an additional court or two and an outside walking/jogging track and maybe a soccer field we might be at $10 million.

Our taxpayer owned elementary schools are in dire need of rehabilitation. This sales tax could be directed at reducing city level property taxes thereby offsetting any tax increase USD 497 may need to rehab OUR elementary schools that somehow have been neglected.

OR 10% of this sales tax could be dedicated to rehab the library and provide operations expenses thereafter. Thereby eliminating the new library tax increase. Another opportunity to reduce taxes. Let the voter decide.

OR Perhaps taxpayers would be interested in repealing all or part this sales tax as a means to reducing taxes for a change?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

The art center is quite a busy place which is good for the community.

The library rehab was approved by the voters NOT the additional parking. City Hall is the pusher behind additional parking.

I have not looked at the recent numbers regarding the T but you can bet the T is still providing several hundred thousand rides annually.

Wal-Mart and Home Depot are products of corporate welfare socialism.

"Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Reveals how government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/transcript.html

A NW neighborhood rec center is good use of tax dollars.

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grammarrodeo 1 year, 7 months ago

Count a yes vote from a small government conservative. Just because I don't like our federal government spending China's money doesn't mean I want to deprive me and my neighbors of useful community resources that we fund locally. I like Lawrence because we have things to do for adults and kids and are in proximity to additional services we might not want directly in our back yard (giant airport comes to mind). I guess if 40% of our pay wasn't sent to a massive federal government we'd be more inclined to spend a little right here at home to make our own lives more enriched with recreation.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Things Lawrence, KS has wasted money on during the last 15 years: Empty buses. Library parking garage. Art center expansion.

Talk about building a rec center that will bring tens of thousands of people to Lawrence, benefit the entire community and KU at the same time, and the same dolts that will vote for any of the above 10 times over have a conniption. There is reason Lawrence, KS has so many poor people and there are so few good non government jobs in the city. Few people that live here have any business sense. Let's talk about the likelihood that these same morons are the ones that got in the way of Wal Mart and Home Depot. These people are equal in their stupidity to the right wing religious nuts in Topeka.

The next time KU moves a big game out of Lawrence, these people better not come whining about KU's duty to the city.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

If my memory serves me well previous neighborhood rec centers were built for $4-$7 million $$$.

Using the infrastructure developed city owned property near Free State for the neighborhood rec center with an additional court or two and an outside walking/jogging track and maybe a soccer field we might be at $10 million.

Adding a court to existing rec centers might cost $500,000 each.

I have a hard time wrapping myself around the concept of bringing typically outdoor sports into climate controlled buildings. Wasted tax dollars. What's up with this nonsense?

This town has sidewalks all over the place that people use which are far more convenient than getting in a car to drive a few miles for a walk.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

LAN Memo Con't

Transparency and Public Perception of the proposal:

Recent comments in the local newspaper and in other public forums raise a number of unanswered questions about the Sports Village proposal. Some citizens have asserted that community equity and access to recreational facilities will not be improved by this proposal, and that a smaller scale facility at Free State High School, and improvement at other existing facilities is a better use of tax dollars.

Indeed, since its inception, the Sports Village proposal has expanded significantly in size, scope and cost but there has not been a commensurate expansion of public input or objective or independent validation of projected benefits and costs.

While some of the funding for this project will come from an existing sales tax stream, it appears that significant public subsidy and general fund drawdown will be required. We see a clear need for the City to consider alternatives and conduct independent analysis before proceeding.

We are concerned that the two public meetings held at Free State High School about the Sports Village project provided advocacy for the project but did not sufficiently address concerns or alternatives. To date, it seems that project proponents have had far greater access to City Hall and thus project information, than have taxpaying citizens.

We ask that the City Commission step outside of the current inner circle of developers, City staff and recreation proponents and solicit constructive ideas and alternatives to the current Sports Village proposal from taxpayers.

We urge the City Commission to slow down, and not commit to rezoning or expending further public dollars tonight. We believe that this project, in its current iteration, may pose very real risk to the economic stability of our community.

Thus, we believe that additional public review and comment is warranted. The Commission should provide a side by side financial comparison of viable alternatives, and should strive for improved community consensus before proceeding.

The Lawrence City Commission has received this memo.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

LAN Memo con't

Municipal debt and infrastructure expenditures incurred by the City of Lawrence for the project

Through its recent budget vote, the City has committed to incur $3 million dollars in public G.O. bond debt for 2013 to pay for the infrastructure needs of the Sports Village project. That same 2013 budget raised both the mil levy/property tax and water and waste water rates for City homeowners.

Further, we are uncomfortable with the reallocation of funds from the 1994 county-wide sales tax to support what seems to be more economic development subsidy than community recreation. Lawrence faces an uncertain economy. We do not think it is prudent for the City to commit to $1.2 million dollars in annual lease payments and annual operating costs projected to be nearly $1 million, on top of significant subsidy for infrastructure development.

If additional sales tax and user fee revenues do not materialize as projected, the Sports Village represents a very real risk to tax payers. Given pending contraction of both State and Federal budgets, we believe that this project may pose unacceptable risk, and may create an unsustainable level of long-term debt and obligation for the City and its taxpayers.

Need for substantive financial information about this proposal To date, the City has not provided a comprehensive financial schedule to inform the public about the anticipated costs of this project. We have attached a template outlining the sort of information we believe is necessary for the City to make a fully informed decision.

We are concerned that a lack of information leaves Commissioner, voters and taxpayers largely uninformed about the total costs of the Sports Village proposal. Many have suggested that the City should also provide a side-by-side comparison of costs for the Sports Village and a recreation center developed on City-owned land adjacent to Free State High School.

Before this project proceeds any further, we believe that all pertinent financial information and projections should be compiled in a single document and made available in both a public forum and on the City’s website.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

LAN Memo con't

Conventions, Sports, and Leisure, Inc. (CS&L) consulting work: We are concerned that the CS&L report on projected tax revenues and economic impacts are largely speculative, thus the City’s reliance on this firm’s analysis without independent review or corroboration is problematic.

We recommend that the City thoroughly investigate CS&L’s work in San Bernardino, CA; Orlando, FL; Amarillo, TX; and Minneapolis, MN. We believe that CS&L has a history of promoting projects similar to the Sports Village proposal that in the end, do not bear good community or financial outcomes. We also believe that the City should require any private sector partners to absorb more of the risk.

It must be noted that nearly one-half of the sports complexes in the CS&L were private ventures. The Lawrence Sports Village should have greater private contribution by the private sector to absorb a more significant share of the losses if the complex does not attract all of the promised events and spending projected.

Finally, we are also concerned that CS&L may have a conflict of interest in promoting Lawrence’s development of the sports village project, as CS&L is owned by Legends, a company that sells seating, naming rights, and sponsorships for venues such as that which is proposed for Lawrence.

Inadequate financial or in-kind contributions from the University of Kansas: The current iteration of the Sports Village proposal does not appear to require that the University of Kansas pay its fair share of the costs of infrastructure development. However, it does seem that KU will benefit enormously from this facility, thus we believe that they should fairly contribute to the infrastructure, maintenance, parking, utilities, and storm water mitigation costs.

Recent disclosure that NCAA rules prohibit member institutions from marketing events such as basketball tournaments at offsite facilities raise further questions about KU’s ability to adequately or fairly support the marketing and promotional needs of the proposed Sports Village project.

Con't

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Memorandum on Sports Village Proposal

The Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods (LAN) supports the construction and operation of a community recreation center in the northwest section of the City. However, LAN has the following concerns and questions about the currently proposed Sports Village project:

Pending rezoning vote, and the expansion of retail/commercial development west of Highway K-10: We are concerned that the pending rezoning may include allow businesses that do not primarily support sports events slated to be held at the Sports Village site. The City’s pending rezoning and recent annexation is unprecedented, and is occurring even before the project itself has received approval from the City Commission.

This seems to go against the City’s own policies and procedures regarding rezoning, and may leave the project site zoned with no assurance that a viable project will manifest. Further, we are concerned about the potentially negative impact of this proposed development on Downtown Lawrence. Would any businesses now in Downtown Lawrence move to the commercial area near the sports complex?

Downtown Lawrence is touted as the centerpiece of the City. How will the City insure that downtown continues to thrive? We are concerned that competing commercial and retail development 6 miles west of downtown does not complement Downtown Lawrence.

Proposed Sports Village competing with similar venues already in existence in Johnson County, and proposed for Wichita and the Legends in Kansas City, KS: We feel that the City does not have enough information regarding competing regional facilities.

If the Sports Village cannot attract enough events to operate in the region, what are the impacts to Lawrence taxpayers? Will competition from other venues in Wichita and Kansas City, KS limit the number of events Lawrence can attract? If all three sites are ultimately developed, we are worried that there may be bidding wars that drive taxpayer-subsidized incentives.

Does the City plan to employ a full-time marketing staff person to ensure that Lawrence attracts enough events to sustain the adjacent commercial enterprises and repay the cost of infrastructure development? Would the cost of salary for this marketer, and staff related expenses and subsidies be borne by the taxpayers of the City of Lawrence?

We are concerned that the amount of tax revenue projected from the complex may not meet projections, thus leaving taxpayers to bear the full burden of Sports Village bills.

con't

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CWGOKU 1 year, 7 months ago

Let's take a vote on whether or not this should be taken to a vote. Will there be an area for lawn darts?

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

While I'm not opposed to this being put to a vote, I do wonder why advocates of such a plan believe that voters will come out in sufficient numbers that the winning side could claim to be any more representative of the public than having our elected officials making decisions they were elected to make?

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optimist 1 year, 7 months ago

I felt the same way when the citizens of Lawrence voted to build an $18 million dollar library in a worse economy and at a time when hardcopy books are gradually being displaced by digital books and library book rental is going the way of digital. The library is a great plan if it were 1988.

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Patricia Davis 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree with the need for a public referendum. If the city commission is unwilling to do that, it's time for a massive recall of our public servants who refuse to do what is right for the public, not the few.

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Patricia Davis 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree with the need for a public referendum. If the city commission is unwilling to do that, it's time for a massive recall of our public servants who refuse to do what is right for the public, not the few.

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tir 1 year, 7 months ago

This needs be voted on by the citizens of Lawrence. The costs involved are HUGE, and there is obviously a lot of division about this.

I do not think I would be likely to use this expensive facility, and I would deeply resent it if the commission just went ahead and did this and stuck us all with the bill without letting people vote on it properly.

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Andini 1 year, 7 months ago

I'll support it if there's a spot to practice rhythmic gymnastics and race walking at any given time.

2

Liberal 1 year, 7 months ago

My guess is that there is not a split there is about two dozen people who cry and moan at all projects (Merrill) and they are loud and obnoxious and it looks like a split. If it were to do polling. Most people would support it.

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MacHeath 1 year, 7 months ago

This plan is ridiculous, in any economy. We don't need, we don't want it. How about the developers donate the money and land to build it? Schwada, and Fritzel have lined their pockets, at the expense of our citizens for years. About time they gave something back. Something is really rotten here.

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Betty Bartholomew 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't see what the big deal about the KU components is. Those sections of the project, according to previous articles, wouldn't be open for public use, so the public has no reason to be excited about those aspects.

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joes_donuts 1 year, 7 months ago

The only projects the public (city commission and city hall) should ever consider subsidizing should be near or related to enhancing our downtown. We as a city have made it clear we want our downtown to remain a special place, and this rec center is going to do nothing but hurt our downtown because of the retail that will go up around it.

What was once a city rec center to meet the needs of west Lawrence has now turned into anything but that.

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fu7il3 1 year, 7 months ago

If they are really planning to build a similar facility at Legends, then there is absolutely no way the city should do this. Lawrence cannot compete with Legends as far as amenities in the area, and people seriously overrated the draw of things like the basketball rules compared to what Legends has to offer.

If the city builds this, they will take a bath on it.

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LJ Whirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Maybe this is a scam, aimed to build a Special play place for the Special People, enriching the developers along the way, but at least the exterior design has all the warmth of a Lenexa warehouse ... and remember, even though you won't be allowed to use it -- at least not much -- you will get to pay for it, and keep on paying for it.

PS - It is already decided, it seems, unless opposition steps up quickly and en masse.

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blindrabbit 1 year, 7 months ago

When you are in a potential drowning situation, the life guards warn against panicking by collecting your thoughts, applying what you have been taught and moving toward saving youself. This does not always work out, however, these same rationale processes can apply to the City Commissions deliberations about the Proposed Rec. Center. The Commission has been presented with a plate full of tempting treats by a group of individuals who, "so they say" are so altrustic that they have a proposal "the City cannot refuse"; but as the old story goes "beware of trojan (wooden) horses" or "Greeks bearing gifts". In reality this "group of altrustic givers" also expects The City to give some thing in return; like providing zoning concessions, extending utilities, streets and services so they can develop areas surrounding the proposed center, and no-doubt some tax concessions.

By educating onself by following the postings in the LJW and reading hard articles about the Rec. Center it appears that the City Commissioners needs to do like the drowning swimmer, take a deep breath, gather their thoughts and apply some rationale thought to this very controversial project. Several issues seem to need careful attention as part of this process including:

  1. What participation is expected from KU, and what limitations about this for all parties?
  2. Is a Rec Center a distance so far away from supporting infrastructure a logical way to go?
  3. What are the real economics of this to The City, need a much more detailed "audit"?
  4. What is the real potential of attracting major events, in view of the competition from others?
  5. Is this a good choice for the City, have other options been fully explored, do we need this?

Slow down , take a deep breath, collect your thought, sharpen your pencil, work out the cost/benefits, and maybe put up to a referendum vote.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

My two cents worth at the CC meeting.

This project is too risky for local taxpayers. In this shaky economy no thank you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Do the pros outweigh the cons of the new proposed sports complex? NO - $30 million or more tax dollars from the taxpayers kind of eliminates the gift concept.

Therefore I think taxpayers should come out strong for voter approval.

Perhaps it is time in to revisit this 1994 sales tax and ask voters how elected officials should be spending this money. Put this question on the upcoming ballot. Offer up practical choices.

This 1994 sales tax is not necessarily dedicated to the park department in spite of the fact a large chunk has been funding park department projects.

Perhaps taxpayers would be interested in repealing all or part this sales tax as a means to reducing taxes for a change?

Think of it this way. 10% of this sales tax could be dedicated to rehab the library and provide operations expenses thereafter. Thereby eliminating the new library tax increase. Another opportunity to reduce taxes. Let the voter decide.

Thinking another way 10% of this sales tax could build this community a nice Vo-Tech center. This would be a huge plus for the community that would definitely pay back. Higher Education always pays back!

Our taxpayer owned elementary schools are in dire need of rehabilitation. This sales tax could be directed at reducing city level property taxes thereby offsetting any tax increase USD 497 may need to rehab OUR elementary schools that somehow have been neglected.

Certainly last but not least let’s build an actual NW neighborhood rec center similar to existing rec centers with two full size courts and a walking track on the 37 acres the city now owns next to Free State High School. It does not need $6 million or more $$$$ in new infrastructure.

In addition to the NW neighborhood rec center add a second full sized court at Holcomb and East Lawrence rec centers to help satisfy the alleged need for more courts.

This concept provides adequate,equitable and conveniently located space throughout the Lawrence tax dollar area. This is certainly more consistent with the promised use of the1994 voter approved sales tax money.

.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Jerry Harper LJW opinion

Since the Schwada-Fritzel scheme isn’t necessary, the real quandary is what to do with all of that extra sales tax/infrastructure money. Here are some ideas (in no particular order of preference):

l Repeal all or most of the 1994 voter-approved sales tax and reduce local sales taxes. (Lawrence presently has the highest sales tax rate of any of the “old” Big 12 cities and one of the highest in Kansas. Purchases in the sports village and adjoining commercial space would have a sales tax rate of nearly 11 percent.)

Use the sales tax money to eliminate the need for a city property tax mill levy increase.

Use it to hire additional police officers. The 2010 Benchmark City Survey, which included Lawrence and 27 other cities, ranked Lawrence second highest in rates of crime. (Is it more important to be No. 1 in crime or in basketball courts?)

Use it to build an actual recreation center with two full-size courts and a walking track on the 37 acres the city already owns next to Free State High School. It is more centrally located. It doesn’t require $6 million-plus in infrastructure improvements. It is far more consistent with the promised use of the 1994 sales tax, i.e. for parks and recreation projects and not economic development. It allows the Schwada property way out west to develop as non-subsidized market forces dictate.)

Build a recreation center for northwest Lawrence, but also add a second full-size court to the Holcom and East Lawrence centers. (This provides equitable and conveniently located space throughout Lawrence.

KU can locate its track south of the fieldhouse as previously proposed. Keeps it close to the Horejsi Center, which allows it to make use of adequate, existing parking for the KU Relays. Maybe even throw in flush toilets for the baseball stadium.)

Instead of just suiting up for whichever team currently fields the most energetic cheerleaders, the city ought to think things through — especially now when scarce tax dollars are needed for a $40 million law enforcement center, $50 million sewage plant, and a school bond issue.

In addition, the Brownback tax cuts are projected to significantly increase local sales and property taxes.

As near as I can tell, there really has been no objective effort to compare the sports village to far less-expensive options, or to rank it in importance against other important projects. Instead, the city has paid for a report confirming what it has apparently already decided to do.

Originally published at: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/aug...

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Republicans keep telling us how pathetic the economy is which they should know. The republican party put the nation in this position not once but twice.

The USA has yet to recover yet Lawrence government continues to expand Lawrence which is adding more to the length of the list of taxpayer liability. Makes no economic sense whatsoever.

Lawrence city government needs a policy of maintaining EXISTING taxpayer owned liabilities of which there are many. AND making better use of existing resources.

Here is the request made most often prior to my departure regarding rec centers.

Let’s build an actual NW neighborhood rec center similar to existing rec centers with two full size courts and a walking track on the 37 acres the city now owns next to Free State High School. It does not need $6 million or more $$$$ in new infrastructure. And we won't be paying an additional $24 million to own this "gift".

In addition to the NW neighborhood rec center add a second full sized court at Holcomb and East Lawrence rec centers to help satisfy the alleged need for more courts.

This concept provides adequate,equitable and conveniently located space throughout the Lawrence tax dollar area. This is certainly more consistent with the promised use of the1994 voter approved sales tax money. This is the best bang for the tax dollars and is making excellent use of existing resources.

No one spoke out against a neighborhood rec center in the neighborhood.

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classclown 1 year, 7 months ago

When I first read the headline, I read the second word as spit.

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classclown 1 year, 7 months ago

"About twice as many people spoke against the proposal as for it,..."

====================================================

So about 33% in favor. Unfortunately in today's political climate, since 2008, that is considered a mandate to do it.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Thanks to all for taking time out of their busy lives and expressing their opinions to their elected officials.

It's impossible to say for sure, but my gut feeling is that there is quite a bit of opposition to the project. The Commission would be wise to put this project up to the public for a vote. They did it for the 18 million dollar library. A similar course of conduct is indicated for a 24 million dollar rec center.

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