Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2012

Step back

Lawrence officials have a new opportunity to work with Kansas University — and also an opportunity to step back and make sure new recreation facilities will meet the city’s needs.

September 13, 2012

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Kansas University’s decision to withdraw from plans for a city-KU recreation complex on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway presents an opportunity to city officials.

The possibility of partnering with KU on a different development near the northeast corner of that intersection may prove to be a good opportunity for the city. However, before city officials jump into such a deal, they need to take this opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at their plans for a new recreation center.

The recreation complex that was being proposed by developers Duane Schwada and Thomas Fritzel was not what the city would have planned or built on its own. The city would have built something smaller and at least a little closer to the center of the city — and designed more to serve local recreational needs than to serve as a destination for out-of-town visitors participating in volleyball or basketball tournaments.

Now is the time for city officials to take a breath and make sure they are clear on their goals for this center. How important or beneficial is it to share a site with a KU facility? The two facilities could share some parking and utility improvements but would operate independently. Does whatever the city gains from the association with KU offset any disadvantages, such as the center’s relatively distant location for local users?

Maybe partnering with KU will be a great deal, but city officials again need to carefully examine the details. The city’s recreation center apparently would be built on land owned by KU, and the city needs to consider any problems that might pose. Other details such as who will pay for extending utilities to the site must be hammered out in a way that’s fair to all parties.

The city also needs to find out whether Fritzel still is willing to help finance a recreation center so the city can build a larger facility than it otherwise could afford — and whether the city can reach a satisfactory deal with Fritzel to do that. There must be total transparency on the cost of the structures, as well as costs associated with extending the infrastructure. There is no excuse to manipulate costs or the assignment of costs.

City officials seemed eager after Tuesday’s meeting to work out a deal with KU. There’s nothing wrong with that. Lawrence is proud to be the home of the state’s largest university, and the city has every reason to be supportive and enthusiastic about KU’s plans to build new track, soccer and softball facilities at this location.

That being said, city officials need to remember that their primary duty is not to build a facility that works for KU or one that works for developers of the surrounding property. It needs to be a facility that works for the residents and taxpayers of Lawrence. They should take enough time to make sure whatever the city agrees to meets that goal.

Comments

KU_cynic 2 years, 11 months ago

I think it would be a very useful public service if the LJW were to publish a map showing where these properties are. Being able to refer to an archived on-line story with such a map would be very useful.

Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

"The city also needs to find out whether Fritzel still is willing to help finance a recreation center so the city can build a larger facility than it otherwise could afford..."

Why in the world does the City need Fritzel to finance the project? As a municipal entity it has the ability to issue bonds which are exempt from both state and federal income tax. Since such bonds are tax exempt, they generally have a lower rate of return, which means cities generally pay less interest than private enterprise when incurring debt.

There is something very very fishy about the whole Fritzel deal. Is he now the local loan shark?

kansasredlegs 2 years, 11 months ago

Agreed. Fritzel is no longer required for a larger rec center since the costs associated with infrastructure should be millions less now that the City doesn't have to provide the One Percenters with taxpayer paid free infrastructure. The savings can be applied to any difference in interest on the GO Bonds.

Hey Commish, try something novel and actually put the construction out for bid. We the payor might actually be surprised. Seems to me that JE Dunn might like a piece of this.

kansasredlegs 2 years, 11 months ago

Why does the term "partnering" keep being thrown around? My recollection is that each and every time KU facilities are discussed we are always advised that such facilities will be closed to the public. So, aside from "partnering" up to use taxpayer funds and the extension of infrastructure, where is the partnership?

Bigdog66046 2 years, 11 months ago

The city should take the "opportunity" to say no, or at least wait a year to see what happens at the Legends area. Doesn't anyone remember how the golf course was suppose to bring in all kinds of business and make money for the city, but is nothing but a tax payer subsidy, costing us tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And now we are talking MILLIONS in operating expenses?? Doesn't anyone at city hall have a clue what the economy is doing right now??? Lets stop spending all non essential spending until times are better!!

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