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Archive for Friday, January 4, 2013

Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods calls for citywide election on recreation center project

January 4, 2013

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The largest neighborhood organization in the city is now calling for a citywide election on a proposed $25 million recreation center.

The Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods also took an official position questioning whether the unusual bidding process proposed for the project does enough to protect taxpayers.

“As we see it, the project as proposed falls far short of the desired standard of public bidding and cost certification,” Laura Routh, the newly elected president of LAN, said Friday. “Under the conditions outlined thus far, we have no assurance that taxpayers will get full value for their money.”

The association held a meeting Thursday night — with about 20 members present — to craft a formal position on the project to deliver to city commissioners.

Routh said the group decided to ask city commissioners to conduct a citywide election on whether the project should move forward, “given the magnitude of the project and the resulting long-term debt to be incurred by taxpayers.”

As currently proposed, the city would spend $25 million for a 181,000-square foot-regional recreation center that would be part of a larger public-private sports park on about 90 acres north of the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

City commissioners have addressed the issue of whether the project should go to a citywide election. A majority of commissioners have said they do not believe an election is needed because the project is not proposing to raise any existing taxes.

Plans call for the recreation center to be paid for through proceeds of a sales tax approved by voters in 1994. The tax has been used to build multiple recreation facilities, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department building and other uses. Money is available in the sales tax fund because several long-term bonds have been or soon will be retired.

On Friday, Mayor Bob Schumm said he thinks there are reasons to not put the project to a citywide vote.

“The form of government is a representative form of government,” Schumm said. “As long as we’re not raising taxes, I don’t see the need to have a specific vote on it.”

Schumm said his read of the public, though, is that the community is supportive of the project.

“My feeling is that we have a majority of people in the community who want to see this through,” Schumm said. “The people who are a little ill at ease about it are concerned about the arrangement to deliver the project.

“The arrangement is unusual, but it comes up with a project that is quite extraordinary.”

As currently proposed, the project would create a partnership among the Kansas University Endowment Association, KU Athletics, the city and a private company led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel.

Fritzel is the Lawrence businessman who is providing the financing to build the KU facilities at the Rock Chalk Park site, which will include a track and field stadium, soccer field, softball stadium and other amenities. It recently was revealed that Fritzel ultimately will own the facilities that KU will use, and Fritzel will have the ability to use the facilities for other events, if certain conditions are met.

The city would own the recreation center and about 20 acres of ground within the Rock Chalk Park area. But as it is currently structured, Fritzel would have the inside track to build the city’s recreation center through a process that deviates from the city’s standard bidding policy.

Routh said members of LAN expressed support for the idea that the city needed more indoor recreation space, but questioned the bidding process and whether the city was placing the project ahead of other city priorities.

Schumm said he has become more comfortable with the bidding process in recent weeks.

As previously reported, KU Endowment — which is insisting upon building the city recreation center and then transferring ownership of it to the city in order to control the quality of the project — has agreed to accept two other bids for the work.

KU Endowment would invite bids from two other contractors — of the Endowment Association’s choosing — in addition to a bid from Bliss Sports, an entity that Fritzel controls.

If either of the bids from the other two contractors is lower than Fritzel’s bid, Fritzel would have a chance to match the bid and receive the work.

As has been the case from the beginning, Fritzel is pledging if the project has overruns that push the project to more than $25 million, he’ll cover those costs. The city believes the value of the project as it is currently designed is closer to $33 million, meaning Fritzel would be providing the city a value.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with it,” Schumm said of the proposed process. “We are going to have a market price established on this project. There will be two other bidders bidding on it, and we will know what we’re getting.”

Commissioners will be hearing rezoning issues and an application for a special use permit for the project at their Tuesday evening meeting.

But commissioners won’t take any action Tuesday that commits the city to moving ahead with the regional recreation center. The city won’t make such a commitment until it has seen proposed agreements with the KU entities and the Fritzel group.

Schumm said those agreements are scheduled to be completed by the commission’s Feb. 19 meeting.

“All the documents before they are signed will be in the public view,” Schumm said. “I’m trying as best as I can to be as transparent and as open with the public as possible.”

Comments

JackMcKee 1 year, 3 months ago

Laura Routh vs Bill Self. Anyone want odds on who wins?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Tax increasing growth has been rightly blamed for many things: destroying green space, increasing air and water pollution, fracturing our neighborhoods ,closing neighborhood schools and ignoring the taxpayers desire for a walking/cycling friendly community.

But there is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned. Developers and their tax increasing business unfriendly growth plans are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Higher city taxes/user fees is the direct result of over 30 years of subsidies paid for by the local taxpayers. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects. Such as billions we spend on new roads, water/sewer lines,traffic lights as well as the quite generous ones like the wide variety of tax incentives that support local developers in their quest to further over build Lawrence,Kansas.

The Lawrence Downtown family retail experience is an endangered species thus business unfriendly.

We've subsidized tax increasing growth at such a basic level for so long, that many taxpayers believe without it Lawrence will die. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of business unfriendly tax increasing development.

Developers and their tax increasing business unfriendly growth plans are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

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getajob 1 year, 3 months ago

If a University contractor gets this job, not one local business will play a part in this unless they are Union . Plus, it wouldl cost the taxpayers 2 to 3 times more than Mr. Fritzel's quote.. Way to many out of town companies doing jobs for the city, USD #497, and the university, when they are many capable businesses in Lawrence to the job. All so someone's pockets can be padded or someone's election promises can be met.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Do you think there should be a citywide vote on a new rec center?

http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2013/jan/do-you-think-there-should-be-city-wide-vote-creati/

interesting yet not surprising results thus far.

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Mike Myers 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't think it would pass a public vote. Anytime Merrill and Wilbur are on the same side of an issue that really says something.

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Pete_Schweti 1 year, 3 months ago

A public vote would just approve this thing anyway, just like the M-T and the "Library" expansion. People in this town are idiots.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Hugh Carter is moving to the expanded Chamber of Commerce payroll as a lobbyist.

"There will be two other bidders bidding on it, and we will know what we’re getting.”

The other two bidders have no chance of being accepted as the "builder" so goes the rumor in which case there is no incentive to submit truly competitive bids. It's an exercise to pull the wool over taxpayers eyes aka making believe the bidding process is on the up and up.

Commissioners will be hearing rezoning issues and an application for a special use permit for the project at their Tuesday evening meeting.

"But commissioners won’t take any action Tuesday that commits the city to moving ahead with the regional recreation center. The city won’t make such a commitment until it has seen proposed agreements with the KU entities and the Fritzel group."

In essence the numbers are not in. Yet Lawrence is moving as if all of the facts are available in which to base a fiscal intelligent decision. If what we read is true city hall still does not know a lot about major issues surrounding the project. Not a great way to transact business.

Who does know? Anyone?

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George Lippencott 1 year, 3 months ago

Why are supporters of this initiative so resistant to submitting it to the public. We got to vote on the T and the Library. Why not this?

Just because a stream of our money - not the commission's money, may be available we should not bypasses the normal priorities process of our community.. Personally, I question the bait and switch game associated with the original community approval of the dedicated recreational account.

Just because one of the city lawyers potentially under pressure from our city manager - an advocate,-says it is so does not mean the burden of community support has been met for redirecting that funding stream. More importantly, with the normal turnover here, a goodly (unknown) percentage of us had nothing to say with the original decision which according to the city encumbers us forever. 0

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minimadoff 1 year, 3 months ago

Where's Hugh Carter been lately, no stupid quotes in the newspaper.

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ThePilgrim 1 year, 3 months ago

I think that we need an Olive Garden, Lowe's, and the SE section of the SLT bypass more than this KU-partnered boondoggle!

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ljreader 1 year, 3 months ago

no no and NO. Stop spending our money. For people who want a rec center, they can pay for a gym membership, or use one of the other rec centers. These are hard economic times. The City needs to stop looking for ways to spend more money. We'd be better off with no city commissioners. They seem to look at their "leadership" role as a way to grease the palms of their buddies by cooking up ways for taxpayers to benefit them. I'd like to see them spend their time trying to find ways to reduce our taxes, or at least spend them wisely. Here's an idea. Fix the sidewalks and streets we already have and maybe people wouldn't need so many rec centers. Maybe they would exercise outside if they didn't fear breaking bones. A couple of weeks ago, I watched an elderly man with a cane fall on a pothole in front of my house. He and his companion were probably trying to avoid the crappy sidewalks by walking along the curb. If there is need for a rec center, some enterprising business person would build one. Same goes for golf courses, recycling services, and all the rest of the brainstorms these brainiacs come up with. This project sounds like another money pit.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

The building is ugly. Looks like the new homeless shelter!

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Want to attract higher wage employment to Lawrence, Ks. ?

Invest in the future by way of developing safe walking pathways and safe bicycling pathways. Parents want to feel confident that their children can walk and bike safely to school.

And adults want to feel confident that they can walk and bike safely to employment,grocery shopping and socializing.

All of the above could be accomplished for millions upon millions less that the Rock Chalk Park. Throw in a NW Lawrence Rec Center and taxpaying citizens would STILL be millions upon millions of tax $$$$$ ahead.

People like to be outside not stuck in some climate controlled building that requires several hundred thousand dollars a year for operations.

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Mike Myers 1 year, 3 months ago

With 25 million we could build a beautiful 10 million dollar west side rec center and spend 1 million dollars on sidewalk & bike path improvements in every neighborhood in the city. We could benefit every tax payer in the city and turn our town into the most pedestrian friendly city in the midwest which could be more marketable than one mega rec center that benefits few, sits mostly unused and costs plenty to heat, cool and maintain...

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irvan moore 1 year, 3 months ago

the original plan to build a neighborhood rec center out west has been hijacked by endowment and fritzel and the desire of city commissioners to build a monument to themselves without regard to the consequences for the citizens of lawrence

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

" The Rock Chalk Park will grow business and that will help drive residential taxes down."

Talk about rhetoric. There is no evidence that any such action will materialize. In fact City Hall has acknowledged this project will never pay back the taxpayers.

The consultant on the project raised some flags as well.

LAN has never said no to a fiscally responsible investment such as a neighborhood rec center.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 3 months ago

Remember we have a new police station getting ready to be shoved down our throats too.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 3 months ago

I would vote no but if it went to vote and passed then build it. I do disagree with Bob that since there is no new tax increase it should not be voted on because there is no tax increase YET. This project will be a loser financially and our taxes will be subsidizing this loser for decades. If this project was a feasible business venture, KU and Fritzel would not be handing it over to the city. KU gets a new venue, Fritzel makes a few million and the tax payers get to foot the bill. Like I have said before, this a real estate scam and the city is the mark. They build it for an inflated $25 million, it really cost $15 mil to build but someone appraised it at $25m, we pay $18 mil for it and just like the infommercial, we made a $7mil profit.......on paper. Its actually worth little more then the land it sits on because the business side of this is will have a negative cash flow. Vote no.

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James Minor 1 year, 3 months ago

A citywide vote on the rec center is necessary due to the mis-understandings on the revenue growth in the area. The taxpayers need to understand how the center in the proposed location will be sustainable over a 10 year period before it goes to a vote. Any investment in a venture like this requires a clear path in understanding how the residential and business revenue return will aid in the centers maintenance and expansion capabilities. There has been a lot of input from the local developers on growth potential in this area but the taxpayers need to be sure that the discussions are not unrealistic projections.

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wineguy 1 year, 3 months ago

Maybe a vote with a ballot reading "do you support this project or would you rather see improvements to existing infrastructure like the roads and parks in your neighborhood today?" And this would bring the people of Lawrence out to vote. In the last five years, Dolph Simons got the 2300 block of Vermont St street repaved twice and new sidewalks installed. He doesn't care about this initiative. I ride my bike two blocks north on Vermont and am dodging potholes. There is also a great park close to our neighborhood where the basketball court is crumbling concrete and old goals falling apart. There are more neighborhoods that would benefit from existing issues being fixed than this new development. Let's face facts - Fritzel, Compton and friends have spent the time figuring out how to best line their pockets with our tax dollars and have ensured there is city council in place to green light them every step of the way. Too bad in 1994 people trusted city government would take these funds to keep our city from disrepair, not make contractors rich - again.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

What is it that no one gets except the developers? This is a way to move city sewers, water, infrastructure west just as was done with the jail and free state high! Which came first,, the chicken or the egg!?

Amateurs at city hall being led by professional politicians at KUEA.

Didn't say the politicians are reputable, just a bit slicker than"leaders" at 6 e 6th.

0

Mari Aubuchon 1 year, 3 months ago

Put it to a vote! I doubt that this will pass.

I do not think that this is the time to spend money on an expensive and unnecessary project. We need improvements to our existing water treatment plant, another one not far down the road, and upgrades to the police department and several schools. All of this will cost us a bucket load of money but they are essentials that will benefit far more residents and taxpayers than the rec center. I also have serious doubts about the way that this the entire project has been and will be handled.

6

Abdu Omar 1 year, 3 months ago

We Lawrencians are being mislead. I do not believe that this rec center will attract lots of users because of its location. Who can walk from 6th street and say Wakarusa to the rec center? No one and if they do, that is their excercise. If this project were built on land inside Lawrence where many could use it, I would be all for it. Instead of building the eyesore hotel north of campus, why wasn't a rec center put there? Then you would have citizens from KU and the general public using it. Or put it downtown or where ever but out near the SLT is foolish because it isn't accessible I also think there should be a vote on this. Everyone I speak to about it is against it because of the reasons I mentioned and because it will use tax dollars we could use for something more centered on the community and not making Fritzel rich. Excuse me: richer!

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Hoots 1 year, 3 months ago

I vote NO. This thing is a total scam just like the library which benefited the same people. Voters in this town need to look further than the tips of their noses and ask a few more questions before they vote yes.

2

skinny 1 year, 3 months ago

I vote no! Lets use that money instead to lower the personnel property taxes in this city which are way to high!

2

Taxpayer2 1 year, 3 months ago

The classic Lawrence 'protest everything crowd' tactic is to demnad a public vote in the eleventh hour. This group does not care what the majority of Lawrence thinks, they only want to stop the park.

1

beeline 1 year, 3 months ago

I voted for the tax in 1994 and enjoy the many projects it has funded. This project fits the intent of the tax. We voted for our commissioners. Let them represent us. Not everyone agrees with every check the Commission writes, but that is what elections are for.

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Steve Jacob 1 year, 3 months ago

At this point, why not wait until the new commission vote on the in April? Make it an election issue.

And if you really hate the rec center idea, start a petition to "sunset" the 1994 sales tax vote. Take away that money at the center will not get built.

0

msezdsit 1 year, 3 months ago

The problem with a city vote is low voter turnout. It is possible to ram this project through with the votes of those who are promoting it and seem like the city was in favor, as a whole. The safe thing to do is just shelve the whole bad idea.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

This project will also have an estimated $300,000 or more annual operating budget which means every 3 years another $1 million tax dollars will be invested in this project. In a place that will be empty a good deal of the time.

Real estate value will depreciate from day one.

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irvan moore 1 year, 3 months ago

i think the idea of having a rec center vote, the commission vote, and the school bond vote during the same election might make the taxpayers realize that it is going to be impossible to not raise taxes when you spend this much money regardless of what the commisioners and the school board are saying

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Put this matter before the voters. Let the chips fall where they may.

The process for this project was ill conceived from day one. Certainly not well thought out.

KU athletics has plenty of money they DO NOT need my tax dollars. This has been a recklessly presented endeavor from day one. Should have been tabled forever. One more reason this project should be put before the voters.

What could be the alternative?

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the entire community?

Construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2-3 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space.

Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park through the new development in the "eastside warehouse district". A design path has been created so lets get on with it. Maybe cost $200,000.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

A best bang for our 1994 sales tax dollars and taxpayers as stakeholders. With a few bucks left over for new landscaping in the "eastside warehouse district" in addition to Rhode Island and Vermont in downtown.

Generally speaking this big tax dollar project has been changed so many times no one knows what will be the end result. Not a good way to do business.

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Keith Richards 1 year, 3 months ago

Vote or no vote this thing will be approved. Voters in Lawrence have never seen a tax they don't like. Why anyone in their right mind would vote for a sales tax with no sunset is beyond stupid. The EmpT bus system was approved by vote, along with a $20 million library.

1

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

Again, if KUEA builds the entire project and owns it, there is no need fora vote or anything except zoning approval from the City Commission. This project is a ploy to move city sewers and water to the west so Fritzel andbCompton and Swada can get utilities, just what happened with the jail and free state high school. Every jack leg / plumber aka builder hooked on .

3

jhawkinsf 1 year, 3 months ago

I'd be all for a vote if I felt a substantial percentage of the electorate would actually take the time to come out and vote. Sadly, I doubt it would happen. So have a vote, or not. Have our elected officials decide, or not. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

1

blondejuan 1 year, 3 months ago

Is this a democracy or a dictatorship?

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Liberal 1 year, 3 months ago

Wow, I am sure that the 20 members are representing all of the people in their neighborhood....not.

I am the President of the Metro Lawrence Neighborhood association, I represent all homeowners in Lawrence. We declare LAN a sham organization that only represents the no growth crowd.

1

oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 3 months ago

KUEA and Schumm and the other commissioners are just plain not smart!

Here is what is smart: KUEA builds the entire project, gets donations from Fritzels grandma Bliss heirs.

KUEA then runs the entire project for 10 years, it is on the tax rolls!

During the 10 year term, anyone in Douglas county Jeff county, Shawnee county, Johnson county, Franklin county pay a nominal fee to use any part of the complex.

KUEA pays property taxes for 10 years.

At the end of 10 years, KUEA. Makes a big fat charitable gift to the City of Lawrence of a worn out rec center, but the folks using it will have been sufficiently brainwashed to accept the white elephant and dump millions more into it.

KUEA will make certain that it is to their financial pocketbook when the gift is bestowed.

KUEA. will hire whomever they want to build it since the entire project is theirs.

No bid necessary or public vote,

LAN will have to find another cause!

Lesson learned: Scumm and commissioners not smart, KUEA not smart, Thomas Fritzel the smartest because he makes money.

A city that has crappy streets also has crappy leaders.

Wonder how Dolph would respond?

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 3 months ago

Schumm became more comfortable with Fritzel's bidding process after the $50,000 dollar fine was levied from Fritzel for the Varsity House site plan violations.

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homergoodtimes 1 year, 3 months ago

Transparent Schumm, is the City being asked to issue IRB's for Thomas Fritzel's benefit to finance the project, will there be tax abatement on Fritzel's property, will sale tax on construction materials be avoided. Transparent Schumm please tells us.

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minimadoff 1 year, 3 months ago

Research Thomas Fritzel's recent deals. 1. The Varsity House. 2. Plastic grass. 3. Oread Hotel cell towers. 4. Junction City development, Olivia Farms.

Do you really trust Thomas Fritzel.

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Keith 1 year, 3 months ago

Schumm said those agreements are scheduled to be completed by the commission’s Feb. 19 meeting.

“All the documents before they are signed will be in the public view,” Schumm said. “I’m trying as best as I can to be as transparent and as open with the public as possible.”

But those documents will be signed, no matter what you unwashed public have to say about it. Buffalo Bob has spoken.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 3 months ago

"“All the documents before they are signed will be in the public view,” Schumm said. “I’m trying as best as I can to be as transparent and as open with the public as possible.”"

Good-- that means that when it's put to a citywide vote, voters will be well informed.

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cowboy 1 year, 3 months ago

LAN has no standing and you and your 20 members are not speaking for the city at large. Electing Ms Routh president of anything seems a treacherous endeavor.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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lunatic 1 year, 3 months ago

It is a great project. We would be foolish to not proceed

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scaramouchepart2 1 year, 3 months ago

The neighborhood group and new pres seems to behind the times. As the article points out the City Commissioners have already made those decisions.

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Jean Robart 1 year, 3 months ago

Sounds like an awfully good idea to me, especially if public funds (aka taxes) are used.

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guavablues 1 year, 3 months ago

I think it should be voted on.

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