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City gives preliminary approval to development agreement for $25M recreation center

Concerned Lawrence residents Leslie Soden, center, and Laura Routh, listen from outside the full City Commission chambers as reports and estimates are presented by city officials regarding the proposed Rock Chalk Park during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Proponents for and against construction of the facility and its various amenities spoke during the public comment portion. Soden, who running for City Commission, is opposed to the sports park plan and believes there are too many questions and concerns with the plan as it exists.

Concerned Lawrence residents Leslie Soden, center, and Laura Routh, listen from outside the full City Commission chambers as reports and estimates are presented by city officials regarding the proposed Rock Chalk Park during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Proponents for and against construction of the facility and its various amenities spoke during the public comment portion. Soden, who running for City Commission, is opposed to the sports park plan and believes there are too many questions and concerns with the plan as it exists.

February 19, 2013

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City commission meeting visitors listen as City Manager David Corliss gives a report in support of the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

City commission meeting visitors listen as City Manager David Corliss gives a report in support of the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Talk may soon start turning to action on a proposed $25 million, city-owned recreation center.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a development agreement that could allow construction on the center to begin by late April.

“People are going to come here and love this place,” Mayor Bob Schumm said of the plans for a 181,000 square foot recreation center that would be adjacent to Kansas University stadiums for track and field, softball and soccer. The entire project — slated for about 90 acres north of the northeast corner of Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway — is called Rock Chalk Park.

Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the development plan on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Mike Amyx opposed. Commissioners are scheduled to give final consideration to the plan at their March 5 meeting.

Commissioners heard about an hour’s worth of public comment from a fairly evenly divided crowd — one more person spoke in favor of the plan than against it.

Supporters largely told commissioners that there was an acute need for gym space in Lawrence. The project calls for eight full court gyms, and supporters said they were confident there would be more than enough demand from youth teams and other users to make the gyms a worthwhile investment.

“It looks like we are getting a good deal in terms of other facilities, and it is meeting the needs of our community,” said Marcus Dudley, executive director of the Sporting Kaw Valley soccer association. “I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”

Several opponents questioned the size of the facility, and also said the $25 million project deserved to be put to a public vote.

Commissioners, though, stuck to the positions they have staked on the project over the past several months. Several acknowledged that the project has gone through multiple changes that have increased the number of questions among some in the public.

“Improving the project and doing the right thing dictates change on a project of this size,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “If we never made any changes and just stuck to a cookie cutter project, we would have half the project that we do today.”

Amyx was the lone commissioner to lobby for a smaller project, and he said the city should again consider a 29-acre site it already owns near Wakarusa and Overland drives. Amyx also came out in favor of a citywide election on the issue.

A majority of commissioners, though, said the public adequately decided the issue as part of a 1994 sales tax vote that called for the sales tax revenues to be used for recreation projects, among other items.

If commissioners give final approval to the project on March 5, plans for the recreation center — which also will include an indoor turf field, walking track, fitness area and other amenities — could be ready to distribute to potential bidders in late March. Architects are estimating the city could be ready to award a bid — which will use the city’s standard bidding process — on April 23.

Commissioners will use the next two weeks to review new documents related to the deal. That includes agreements that Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel and his Bliss Sports, LLC have made with KU entities to develop and operate the university’s portion of Rock Chalk Park. Commissioners said they would further review those documents but had not yet seen any significant concerns with those agreements.

Comments

frankfussman 1 year, 5 months ago

Amyx spoke up saying that he thought this measure should go to a city-wide vote.

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Old_Oread_Phart 1 year, 5 months ago

Then that is about it, isn't it Wilbur. Unless you are all un-democratic or something. Which you probably are. Whine away....

2

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

There is nothing democratic about this back-room, crooked deal.

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leftylucky 1 year, 5 months ago

This building is twice the size of Allen field house.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

“I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”


More accurately, for the supporters, the end justifies the means, and therefore requires the trampling of what the public at large may think about this project and the 1/2% surcharge that they'll be paying on nearly every item they buy for the next 20 years, for the exclusive benefit of a very narrow sliver of the city's population.

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Cindy Wallace 1 year, 5 months ago

Hmmmm.....would seem the Mayor/Commissioners have not yet read the most recent article regarding Fritzel/KU agreements...Ha!

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jafs 1 year, 5 months ago

In another article on this topic, it's clear that Fritzel lied about how the rec facilities will be run, not disclosing his company's ability to run concessions and charge for parking. When those were made public, he wouldn't comment on it.

That alone should disqualify him from any partnerships with the city, especially ones that involve any sort of tax abatements, incentives, etc.

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irvan moore 1 year, 5 months ago

i hope mr. dever didn't hurt his arm patting himself on the back at last nights commission meeting

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Keith 1 year, 5 months ago

Or strain his back carrying all that water.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Here's another scenario that might come back to bite taxpayers in the butt. This one gets built.

There is an equity issue no matter what and this new giant facility will not make that go away.

That still leaves North Lawrence and Southeast Lawrence without a rec center. Both have had a major influx of population and still growing. SE Lawrence does have Prairie Park Nature Center however athletic events cannot be scheduled.

There is an equity issue no matter what and this new giant facility will not make that go away.

WE taxpayers know this field house scenario will cost we taxpayers more than $31 million after all infrastructure is installed etc etc etc. Traffic Lights/water lines etc etc get expensive.

Considering the total cost will be more than 31 million no matter how the picture is painted why not build a neighborhood rec center in NW with 3 gyms, North Lawrence with two gyms, and Southeast Lawrence with 2 gyms ? This is going to come up. Spend an estimated 11 million on each each facility.

Schedule local athletic events according to where most team members reside.

Jumping in a car to drive across town is not practical thinking. Not any longer. 29 cents a gallon polluting gasoline went bye bye bye some time ago. A ton of people in Lawrence do not bring home $60,000 or more in wages such that a lot of the loudest promoters do and some are on a tax dollar payroll.

In fact it seems this 1994 sales tax money was to provide "neighborhood" rec centers. SE Lawrence is going to want a swimming pool one day.

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average 1 year, 5 months ago

By the vision of this project as a city amenity, SE Lawrence already has a swimming pool. It's at 1638 S Elm, Eudora.

One might call that facetious. But, for anyone east of the Haskell Rail-Trail, all the Eudora parks are closer in miles driven than the proposed rec center. Count the faster driving time on 70-mph K-10, and anyone south or east of KU, east of Iowa St, will get to Eudora faster than they will get to the proposed park. That's still roughly 40% of town.

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MichaelARost 1 year, 5 months ago

I was at the meeting as well and gave a brief statement and asked for a city wide vote. It was clear from the beginning of the meeting that the commissioners (besides Amyx) were already in support of the project. When they asked questions of Mr. Corliss were actually just giving him an opportunity to explain an aspect of the project that he previously hadn't.

It was also clear from the presentation that this project is about a "Regional" rec center, not a community rec center. One of the design highlights was that a large portion of the building could be "shut down" during the week when no one was using it.

Essentially we are paying $10 million for a community rec center and an additional $15 million for a tourist attraction. Plus all the additional costs associated with operating a larger facility.

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Catalano 1 year, 5 months ago

So, if you are elected, I hope you will vote no on any property tax increase to fund a $40M police facility since the sales tax money could have been tapped for that. This commission just set up a future commission to deal with that problem.

0

MichaelARost 1 year, 5 months ago

That's been my main concern with this project and others like it. The city is using cash on hand to pay for questionable projects and infrastructure improvements for retail development then raising taxes/rates (which require public referendum) to pay for more popular projects like road improvement, the library, the proposed water treatment plant, police station, ect..

This method for funding governem projects is completely backwards and needs to be changed.

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fu7il3 1 year, 5 months ago

It's nice to know that a vote from 19 years ago can circumvent citizens having any say about a twenty-five million dollar expenditure. I was fourteen and living in a different state. I had a whole lot to do with that decision.

“I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”

This is asinine. The how is the most important part. I would like a new car, why? It would be more reliable, and I would look cool. I would like a new house, why? I would live more comfortably, and I would look cool. The things that keep me from doing these things are the how's, as in how am I going to pay for it? How would those purchases affect the rest of my life?

The how is the most important part of this whole thing, because it is the how that is going to financially drown us. We all have things we would like to have that wouldn't be smart decisions.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

Well said, but sadly, our commissioners seem totally unconcerned with the "how." No doubt they'll all be invited to the private celebration at Frizel's when this thing gets passed.

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MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

Just because you don't like the "who" doesn't mean that our commissioners are not concerned with the "how". It's pretty lame to make that accusation behind a false name on a public blog/forum. Come on... the residents, volunteers, and public servants of this community are better than that!

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

"Just because you don't like the "who" doesn't mean that our commissioners are not concerned with the "how""

I've seen nothing but utter disregard for the "how" from this commission.

And really, slamming me for posting anonymously while you do the same? Pretty lame.

1

MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

I was not "slamming you" for posting anonymously. I have no issue with that . With that said, i think it's pretty weak and irresponsible for someone to anonymously make an accusation, or statement, that implies that our elected representatives are somehow engaged in unethical or illegal behavior without any evidence to support that position.

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Catalano 1 year, 5 months ago

Oh, but it will look so much better from the balcony. (You had to be watching on TV to hear that quote.)

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MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

If you attended the meeting last night, the "how" comment was in regards to "how" the facility is going to be built not "how" the facility is going to be paid for. The "how" this project will be funded has already been answer and wasn't the subject of real debate last night. From my perspective, the debate has primarily centered around "who" will be building the facility, the ideal location of that facility, and whether the size of the building is appropriate. Based upon the vast majority of the comments last night, the location and the size of the project is really no longer being contested. So.... the original comment “I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why' , I think is very valid. I completely agree. ..the "how " it is built and the "who" it is built by should not be used by others as a way of distracting the public away from the primary focus which should remain firmly centered on the needs of the community.

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fu7il3 1 year, 5 months ago

How this project will be funded has only been answered in theory, and really only involves the initial investment. My concern isn't where the 25 million dollars comes from, although I think there are other projects where that could be better utilized. My concern is the cost to maintain and operate the facility after that, because if that sales tax is entirely tied up in one facility, it can't be used to maintain and operate all of the other rec facilities. Also, if that sales tax fails to meet the financial obligations caused by the rec center, then they will have to raise the sales tax, or property taxes, to cover the gap. This isn't a one time 25 million and we are done.

This is a project that will have to be funded for the rest of our lives, and based on the article earlier in the week, the city is entering a market that is highly competitive and doesn't make much money in the first place. I could care less about Fritzell. I care about the potential financial impact on me and the rest of the people who are already heavily taxed in Lawrence when/if this thing fails.

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MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

Thousands of families who currently live in Lawrence are already financially burdened with the expense of having to travel all over the state to participate in activities that require this type of space. Lawrence doesn't have the facilities it needs so, in many ways, aren't many families in our community already paying a tax to participate in activities and services the city should already be obligated, and should be allowed to provide. Why should the residents of Lawrence, who already travel to other cities to find indoor space spend their money in those cities. It makes more sense to me to build the facilities our community already needs and then tax the residents of other communities when those individuals come to our city to use the facilities they don't have themselves. As mentioned last night, 2/3 of the indoor aquatics centers operating budget is generated by swim meets, events, etc. That's other peoples money, from outside of our community, that is providing the majority of money needed to operate that facility. The additional money spent by those visitors helps support our local economy and that generates more income for individuals and business of Lawrence. All of these issues are economically interconnected and I think it is easy to see the economic benefits that these facilities (KU and RCP) would provide.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

At the very best, the economic benefits of this facility to the city will be a wash once it's factored against all the costs. More than likely, it'll take substantial subsidies from the vast majority of taxpayers who will never get any benefit from it.

And even if this facility is built, the small percentage of Lawrence residents whose lives are consumed by elite athletic competition for their kids will still be driving out of town for competitions.

3

MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

Why do you say "more than likely, it'll take substantial subsidies from the vast majority of taxpayers" ? What evidence do you have to support that assertion? Saying it, and believing, doesn't make it fact or probable. While I think you're probably absolutely correct that the "residents whose lives are consumed by elite athletic competition"... will continue to drive out of town for competitions, i think you're discounting the benefit of hosting those events in our own community. Based upon economic projections, which I think are conservative, the fact remains that the economic benefit of hosting 30+ elite athletic tournament/competitions a year in our own city will benefit our city far more than not having those revenue generating events in our community.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

"What evidence do you have to support that assertion?"

The burden of proof on this project lies with the proponents. And so far, all you all have come up with are flimsy assertions of your own. And there's one big difference between your assertions and mine, and it totals $25 million at a very minimum.

0

MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

Well... I'm clearly a proponent of the project and my personal opinions on the project are based on the data that has been provided. So... here is a summary of what the economic experts have said (this information can be found at www.lawrenceks.org)....

"The cumulative net economic and fiscal impacts of both construction and operations over a one‐year construction period and a 30‐year operating period in today’s dollars (NPV) is estimated to be approximately $164 million in new direct spending, $235 million in total new economic output, $4.2 million in new taxes, 170 new full and part‐ time jobs and $76 million in personal earnings generated in the City of Lawrence. It should be noted that the economic and fiscal impacts described herein include only those associated with the recreational portion of the project.    As such, additional economic and fiscal impacts could be generated to the City via potential ancillary development surrounding the proposed Lawrence Sports Village, as well as from the sale of liquor at area restaurants and bars, among various other potential impacts."

In my opinion, from a purely economic perspective...I think that represents a substantial return on a $25 million investment. So....back to the original question. What evidence do you have to support your claim that "more than likely, it'll take substantial subsidies from the vast majority of taxpayers" to pay for this facility?

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

You've managed to break the reply button with your link, so I reply to my post instead.

These projections are rosily optimistic assumptions designed to sell the project, not to inform a well-reasoned decision.

0

MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

I would be open to seeing alternative numbers and projections. If you have the data, please present the information so they rest of us can begin making" well-reasoned" decisions about our community.

0

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 5 months ago

You were 19? I was 3. There is a new generation of voters that may or may not agree with how adults in the 90s voted.

2

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

It's probably no coincidence that the only commissioner who voted against this is also the only one currently standing for election.

4

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

They have to pretend there is actually a consideration of this.

Obviously it was a done deal from the get go. The public doesn't get a say.

2

pizzapete 1 year, 5 months ago

"A majority of commissioners, though, said the public adequately decided the issue as part of a 1994 sales tax vote that called for the sales tax revenues to be used for recreation projects, among other items." It's nice to know that we decided to build this twenty-five million dollar facility nearly twenty years ago before the economy collapsed, our houses lost value, our property taxes went through the roof, and our roads, sewers, and other infrastructure fell apart. Could it be that the 1994 sales tax vote was a vote to maintain and improve the facilities that we already have? And what other items, "among other items", might that sales tax be used for? Might those "other items" be things like our police and fire departments who are also in need of being maintained and improved upon after twenty years as well?

8

streetman 1 year, 5 months ago

I read that idiotic comment from the commissioners and almost spilled my coffee laughing. Hard to believe someone would say/think like that. These clowns, who cannot wait to wast..., er spend, tens of millions of dollars must be Democrats.

2

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

How many taxpaying residents of Lawrence did not live here in 1994? How many were not old enough to vote on this in1994?

This stinks.

1

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 5 months ago

We could have this rec center for the cost of the new library and one years funding of the empT.

0

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

Put it to a vote - as the city did with the remodeled library.

2

average 1 year, 5 months ago

Unfortunately, putting it to a vote gets just as gamed. I actually looked at the design drawings pre-library vote. Considered it. Voted for it, but really was on the fence. Six months later... we're suddenly looking at totally different drawings... what we were sold pre-vote was just a 'vision'. So, we get a library not drastically larger, especially with the wide empty spaces in it. A lot of rebuilding for rebuilding's sake. And a parking garage.

I'm probably not the only one who feels a more than a little sold out on that one, so that's why we can't be trusted to vote for this one.

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Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

the vote would be for YES or NO

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Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

And the taxpayers of this city voted on both of those projects - the library and the bus - and they voted YES.

Let them vote on the rec center too.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

The ballot should read.

One large field house

OR

3 equitable neighborhood rec centers

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i_read_things 1 year, 5 months ago

The arguments by proponents seem to be: add gym space; free up neighborhood rec centers from current burden; economic development (being regional draw); the collaboration gets us all more for our money. Like it or not, opponents of the proposal did not address these arguments very well in primarily asserting: we cannot trust Fritzel or the commission (Fritzel is evil and the commission is hiding the details from us); "why does it have to be on west side of town"; we elected this commission, but since they may not go my way, we should all vote.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

You'd get the opportunity to vote, too. So it appears that your real argument is "We can't have a vote, because it may not go my way."

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MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

You've already had an opportunity to vote... you had the opportunity to elect commissioners who are paid to review all of the info and then make recommendations and vote on our behalf. Their purpose is to spend the time, that the majority of the public cannot spend, to review the information and then serve as our elected representatives by voting on these types of issues. If you are unhappy with your elected commissioners you have the right to elect/re-elect new representatives.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

That's utterly absurd, and flies in the face of the facts of how this has developed.

It's been completely lacking in transparency, and the secret details of the "plan" have had to be pried out, and we still don't know all of them-- and apparently, not even our elected reps know all of these details-- or if they do, they ain't saying.

This isn't an example of officials reviewing the details of a plan that the rest of us are incapable of doing. This is an example of the arrogance that comes with tight and secretive circles of cronyism. But for you, because you want the end, you'll insult the intelligence of the vast majority for recognizing how flawed the means have been.

Besides, if the only way we get to "vote" on this is through the city commission, why not wait until the next commission is seated, which is only a little more than a month away? Surely, a couple of weeks can't make that much difference, can it?

1

MDODC 1 year, 5 months ago

The only reason you want to seat another commission is because you don't like the position the majority of our currently elected officials now have. Have you even attended any of the meetings on this topic yourself? How much more transparent could it be? Everything is online. Everything is in the paper. The commission has held multiple meetings and provided multiple opportunities for the public to share their opinions and ask questions. What would you have done differently. Even Mike Amyx, who is not in support of the complex, has publicly stated that the process has been fully transparent. You seem to enjoy throwing stones and calling people names but offer little in return as far as substance or alternative solutions.

0

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

Why is the city doing business with a known crook.

Let him pay back Junction City before he asks anything from the taxpayers of Lawrence.

The city commissioners are doing wrong by the public.

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Phil Minkin 1 year, 5 months ago

I have been against having this mega-recenter and the RCP and think we would be better off with a slightly less ambitious project near Free State that could be enlarged if demand warranted. This would allow for upgrades in existing site and the possibility of another facility at some future date. That being said there were very strong arguments in favor. largely based on projected use. I think that even a mega-center at the Free State location make more sense due to it's accessibility to people able to walk or bus there.

5

average 1 year, 5 months ago

The absurd removal from most of town gets to me. Only very slightly better than the initial trans-SLT plan. Over a mile (by road) from the nearest existing house. Mile-and-a-half from the nearest existing restaurant. 3.5 miles from the nearest motel bed. The general FSHS area cuts three full miles out of each round-trip for 99.9% of Lawrence taxpayers.

5

Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

We don't need anything of the magnitude of the proposed rec center.

Fully a third of the residents here have full access to the facilities that KU offers. That, together with the private gyms and the public rec centers that already exist, give ample opportunities to people for indoor recreation.

A YMCA - a nonprofit center - would round out the options nicely. Why doesn't the city subsidize a Y to attract one here? It would cost a pittance compared to this obscenely overdone proposed project.

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Stain 1 year, 5 months ago

Someone should file a lawsuit on behalf of the taxpayers of Lawrence.

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LadyJ 1 year, 5 months ago

You know, this brings back memories of the Riverfront mall. There was strong opposition to the building of the mall. The commissioners said retailers would be fighting to get in and money would flow. All the hype about how Lawrence would reap untold benefits. Yeah, we all see how that worked out.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 5 months ago

I didn't read this particular article as it appeared to be too long. I think I will wait until it written up in condensed form in the next edition of "Amazing but True Stories."

0

msezdsit 1 year, 5 months ago

And the rich get richer. Who could know.

3

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Let them know!!!

Mayor Bob Schumm schummfoods@gmail.com Home (785) 842-6729 Work (785) 842-7337

Vice Mayor Michael Dever mdever@sunflower.com (785) 550-4909

Commissioner Hugh Carter hughcarter@sunflower.com (785) 764-3362

Commissioner Mike Amyx mikeamyx515@hotmail.com Home (785) 843-3089 Work (785) 842-9425

Commissioner Aron E. Cromwell aroncromwell@gmail.com (785) 749-6020

2

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

The sewer plant project is more pork barrel for the real estate movers and shakers as is this field house project.

Too many have yet to realize their "boom town inflated real estate sales" died when the banks got caught participating in a mammoth fraud venture that put millions out of work.

I speculate that many many many in Lawrence do not realize the market value of their home is way less that mortgage debt.

Considering the total cost will be more than 31 million no matter how the picture is painted why not build a neighborhood rec center in NW with 3 gyms, North Lawrence with two gyms, and Southeast Lawrence with 2 gyms ? This is going to come up. Spend an estimated 11 million on each each facility.

Why drop 31 million tax $$$$$$$ in one neighborhood for one rec center?

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bebeeh 1 year, 5 months ago

I really wish the comments were not anonymous . You know it is difficult to respect any view.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

$31 million dollars is too much money for one neighborhood rec center. The cost of the existing rec centers were build for about $7 million tax dollars.

Why should new west Lawrence be subjected to preferential treatment?

North Lawrence has been around for several decades longer yet still has no rec center per se. What's up with that? Why is North Lawrence being subjected to discrimination?

New west Lawrence has more miles of hike and bike trails than any other neighborhood in Lawrence, Kansas. Why is east Lawrence being subjected to discrimination?

Why do the tax dollars flow to new west Lawrence so easily?

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