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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Consultants raise concerns about proposed LMH wellness center at city’s new recreation center

June 19, 2013

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All is not well with the idea of a wellness center at the city’s new Rock Chalk Park Recreation Center.

Consultants told Lawrence Memorial Hospital leaders on Wednesday that the idea of a hospital-run wellness center at the city’s new recreation center was not well-received by a group of stakeholders.

“Our recommendation is for the hospital to gracefully bow out of the opportunity to participate in this facility,” said Pat O’Toole, a Lawrence-based consultant who was hired by LMH to study the wellness center concept. “It isn’t big enough and it isn’t in the right location.”

Hospital board members did not take any action Wednesday on the wellness center issue, but rather agreed to study the written report by the consulting team comprised of Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture and Lawrence-based GreenPlay LLC.

Despite not having a commitment from LMH, city commissioners already have agreed to build the 7,000 square feet of space set aside for a wellness center as part of the 181,000-square-foot recreation center. Mayor Mike Dever said Wednesday that he still wants to work with LMH on the issue.

“As far as I’m concerned, the conversation is ongoing, and I would hope we could figure out a way to work a wellness facet into the recreation center,” Dever said.

The consultants in April and May hosted a series of meetings with hospital administrators, physicians, recreational stakeholders and the general public. The consultants said the input from the group of about 80 people indicated “there was not very strong support of LMH building a wellness center.”

Location was a major sticking point with the proposed center.

“From our focus groups there were only a couple of areas of consensus, and one of them was, that for one reason or another, they were not crazy about the proposed location,” said Karen Shumate, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

The city’s recreation center — complete with eight gyms, an indoor turf field, fitness center and other amenities — will be built near the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway on the far northwest edge of the city.

If the hospital wants to pursue a wellness center, the consultants recommended a site closer to the city’s population, with a location between Wakarusa Drive and Iowa Street drawing interest from a majority of stakeholders.

The issue of whether the recreation center will be too far removed from the city’s population has been a question throughout the recreation center debate. Dever said he’s hoping the hospital and community members take another look at the location.

“I think people need to just start understanding that it is not that far out of town,” Dever said. “The topography makes it feel farther away than it is, even though it is about a mile from one of the busier intersections in town.”

Hospital CEO Gene Meyer said the idea of what should be in a wellness center remains unsettled as well.

“I think we all believe wellness is a key component of our mission, but what exactly that means is still fuzzy,” Meyer said.

The consultants said several stakeholders mentioned the need for more classroom space to teach everything from smoking cessation to stress-management classes. There also was a consensus that the community needs a “teaching kitchen,” which would allow the hospital to teach nutritional programs.

Stakeholders didn’t reach a consensus on larger-ticket items, such as the need for a therapeutic pool, weight and fitness rooms and other similar features.

To build a full-scale wellness center, the consultants estimated the hospital would need about 15,000 square feet, and it would need to be configured differently from what the city offered. If the hospital wants to have a presence at the new recreation center, the consultants recommend collaborating with the Parks and Recreation Department on some classroom space and perhaps a teaching kitchen.

Hospital board members may be asked to weigh in on the issue in August, Shumate said.

In other business, board members:

• Accepted a report detailing that LMH provided $8.6 million in unpaid community services to the Douglas County area in 2012. That’s up from $7.9 million in 2011. The services included about $3.8 million for charity care and $4.1 million in uncompensated services provided to Medicaid patients. The balance was for items ranging from costs for community clinics, health fairs, donations to various organizations and other such expenses.

• Agreed to send a letter to the Kansas Attorney General’s office invoking a temporary exemption to the state’s new concealed-carry law. The exemption will prohibit concealed-carry permit holders from bringing a weapon into the hospital. The exemption period for hospitals runs through at least June 2017.

Comments

Buddha 10 months ago

Reading about this Rec Center daily and all the trials, tribulations, underhanded dealings...all typical Lawrence stuff when you have a group of commissions and mayor who are trying not to rock the boat of the "powers that be". Let's not make business people unhappy because they might not frequent our establishment. Let's not make the upper class unhappy, they may not buy a house from my wife or get us KU tickets. And the list goes on. I feel badly for them trying to please so many people...at the expense of the taxpayers The Lawrence system of government has always been a joke and always will be. I've been in other towns where they say "Oh Lawrence is where you play ring around the rosy to elect your mayor, right?" or "doesn't everyone get a chance to be mayor there?" I am just amazed that there hasn't been a HUGE upheaval from the Common Joe saying we won't take this any more...and I'm right in there to blame for no action so don't get me wrong. Wondering if the next set of elected officials will be on "our" side (Joe the taxpayer trying to get by) or on "their" side (the upper class, $7m realtor spouse, businessman/landowner...and the list goes on). WE need representation and this is a perfect of example of how our elected officials have failed us once again. Thinking it is time for our family to move on....

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Richard Heckler 10 months ago

"Despite not having a commitment from LMH, city commissioners already have agreed to build the 7,000 square feet of space set aside for a wellness center as part of the 181,000-square-foot recreation center. Mayor Mike Dever said Wednesday that he still wants to work with LMH on the issue."

How many people would run their own business this way?

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Richard Heckler 10 months ago

If new residential paid for itself and was financially positive Lawrence should never be in a budget crunch. Yet we see increases in taxes and fees. With increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by new residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality. New residential IS NOT paying for itself.

Following the construction of the high dollar sewage treatment plant,SLT and rec center which in and of itself increases the cost of community services, will be ADDITIONAL high dollar items. Yes tax increases of all sorts and design.

-- city staffing and equipment. / -- water and sewer lines. / -- streets and water main repairs. / -- houses which cannot pay for themselves. / -- public schools. / -- fire stations. / -- law enforcement staffing/equipment. / -- snow removal. / -- bike trails and cross walks. / -- Traffic signals. / -- Traffic calming. / -- Strip Mall infrastructure. / -- Expensive Flood Control. /

In general increases the cost of community services acoss the board to all taxpayers.

What could be accomplished for less accomplish? Why not invest in existing infrastructure instead of allowing it to become a victim of neglect.

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Richard Heckler 10 months ago

Wellness centers begin at home and should stay in the home.

With the money that taxpayers are spending on this endeavor taxpayers could more have afforded a small work out center for every taxpayers home. Plus Wellness information.

This project is all about selling real estate surrounding the project. It's that simple. The SLT and this rec center are pork barrel projects for real estate executives. All of the above are dependent on all of the taxpayers whether taxpayers approve or not.

Without home building Lawrence has nothing more going for it. Not a smart situation.

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fmrl 10 months ago

Sounds like LMH has money to burn. The medical industry is the biggest scam in the country.

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jaybird79 10 months ago

They should expand the hours of the existing LMH clinic first. They are barely open, appointments are at least 3 days out, and most of the time no one even answers their phone. Why have two worthless clinics? LMH needs to improve their services if they want funding in my opinion.

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Currahee 10 months ago

It should be built near central or south Lawrence to spread it out. This is a bit close for people who already can access LMH and there are also physicians near that area too.

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Phil Minkin 10 months ago

One more piece of evidence of how ineptly this whole thing was handled. Rushed through with a lack of transparency and the stench of backroom deals. A community rec center on ground already owned by the city near Free State High School would have fit in with any plans the hospital might have, but Schumm and the 3 stooges, despite frequent disastrous revelations, pushed it through. There needs to be a way to stop or slow the city's involvement until the next election. Or it maybe time for a referendum on the boondoggle.

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Success 10 months ago

If "wellness" has anything at all to do with lowering the cost of healthcare, then I would think a primary target population for LMH would be persons living in poverty who suffer the greatest adverse health impacts and could most use better access to a wide range of preventive wellness services. Locating clear out to hell and back would not seem to be a very good business strategy, if one plans to truly reach this target.

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rlsd 10 months ago

This whole thing has smelled from the beginning.......just gets worse. The entire project was for the sport star wanna bes and the parents. There is not much in it for the average citizen. Is it too late to just be like LMH and bow out gracefully?

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esteshawk 10 months ago

" . . . and $4.1 million in uncompensated services provided to Medicaid patients.". Brownback's economic theories at work. With those kinds of costs being passed to local districts, the little hospitals in little towns are done. Too bad there's not some Federal assistance available to help set up insurance programs. Oh, wait . . .

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MacHeath 10 months ago

This facility will also create a need for more development in the area so Fritzel and his backers can make even more money.

Oh, they are trying to also create a wealthy only area around the downtown. Full of quaint little shops with brie and chablis for everyone!

I don't know who the wealthy think is going to pay for and support all this when the middle class is completely gone.

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MacHeath 10 months ago

Wellness center? Hell no! I don't want the average taxpayer in Lawrence to get one bit of use out of this facility. Especially all the riff raff east of Iowa street!

Who are we kidding here? This thing is being built in an area Fritzel couldn't otherwise quickly develop and turn to cash in his pocket. So he pulled this out of his backside. His cronies sidled-up to support his efforts. The wealthy in the west will reap the most benefit, while the rest of us pay for it.

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oneflewover 10 months ago

Wellness center... blahhhh. Make it an epic wellness center and then you might have something. Ha, "wellness"

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Robert Rauktis 10 months ago

A wellness center that far should be a good health screen. They'll follow the trail of bodies down 6th.

Does the Center serve red wine?

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Wendy magillicutty 10 months ago

What the hell does "wellness" even MEAN!?!

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irvan moore 10 months ago

wow, I sure wish us taxpayers could bow out gracefully

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jack22 10 months ago

I'm sure glad we didn't rush into this thing and instead waited until we had all the details laid out on the table to make an informed decision how and where to spend our 25 million.

It's kind of odd that they've come to the conclusion that "If the hospital wants to pursue a wellness center, the consultants recommended a site closer to the city’s population, with a location between Wakarusa Drive and Iowa Street drawing interest from a majority of stakeholders." Yeah exactly guys, I agree with you all, we should have never build this out in the middle of nowhere in the first place. Where were you guys when the city commission was discussion building this on the edge of town, far from where most people live, and where there's little infrastructure in place to support it?

Any chance we can get a refund and a do over in a better location?

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Keith Richards 10 months ago

That is what happens when you are in a hurry. You get a $12 million dollar rec center with $10 million worth of infrastructure to support it.

Fleeced and Swindled

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somebodynew 10 months ago

Just maybe, if this thing had gone through "regular processes" this kind of thing could have been figured out ahead of time.

Nah, just build it and they will come. (sarcasm off now)

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smileydog 10 months ago

If it's too far out of town for LMH certainly it's too far out of town for Menard's. But wait, it isn't too far out for a huge rec center that the citizens will supposedly be able to use, like Robinson Gymnasium was for the citizens, not.

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