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Archive for Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Editorial: Details, details

City officials should make sure they don’t rush into a costly deal that they — and city taxpayers — later regret.

March 5, 2013

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Tonight appears to be the Lawrence City Commission’s last opportunity to heed the pleas of many community members to slow down and make sure all of the pertinent details are locked in before committing to a city recreation center in northwest Lawrence.

If, as seems likely, city commissioners give final approval tonight to a development agreement for the center, the city will be obligated to pay at least $2.3 million in fees and incentives even if the center is never built. Based on recent commission actions, it appears this project is almost certain to be approved, but what is the rush? Why would commissioners commit to this project and give up much of their bargaining power before remaining questions about parking and other shared facilities at the site are answered — legally and in writing?

Would the five commissioners stake the financial futures of their own businesses on the same careless and sloppy oversight they have given the proposed Rock Chalk Park project?

Kansas Athletics and the Kansas University Endowment Association can do whatever they wish because they are dealing with private money. Even so, their degree of oversight raises many questions.

However, the city’s role in the project deals with public money that deserves close and expert examination. Time and time again, there have been grand sounding explanations of why and how the Rock Chalk Park deal was being put together, who would do what and who would be allowed to do what, only to have a real and different story come out a few days later.

As the mayor said last week, many of the details are between developer Thomas Fritzel and the KU entities, but key issues between the city and the developer also remain to be worked out. What happens, for instance, when city events or just routine use of the recreation center conflicts with a major event at the KU facilities? How will parking be apportioned? Will people attending a KU event take up all the free spaces that should be available for patrons of the city’s center? How will parking be allocated if the city center is hosting a major event? No parking details had been locked in by Friday. Even if city officials are able to cobble an agreement together before tonight’s meeting, there will be little opportunity for the public or commissioners to digest all the details. Again, what’s the rush?

The city, its attorney and city commissioners have jammed this project through without the proper care to all details. There has been too much trust and not enough verification. This is not the way a city should be run.

Comments

Gary Rexroad 1 year, 7 months ago

I respectfully disagree with the Editor. This project has had far more intense inspection than any in recent memory with hundreds of critical column inches from this paper alone.

I believe our commissioners are representing us well, have been transparent and are acting in good faith. They are people of integrity and are owed our mutual respect and thanks for their service.

The editor points out some potential problems yet to be worked out.

"What happens, for instance, when city events or just routine use of the recreation center conflicts with a major event at the KU facilities? How will parking be apportioned? Will people attending a KU event take up all the free spaces that should be available for patrons of the city’s center? How will parking be allocated if the city center is hosting a major event?"

Aren't those exactly the kind of problems that accompany success? I am excited for that day to come...

This project has been delayed long enough. Commissioners, please approve this project.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

"This project has had far more intense inspection than any in recent memory with hundreds of critical column inches from this paper alone."

That's because the process has been so secretive and non-transparent. No matter what the true value of this project might be (and that's nowhere near the slam dunk you assert,) the process behind it is a poster child for how government should not be conducted. It's been a pretty disgusting display of cronyism and groupthink, as a matter of fact.

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SouthernMan 1 year, 7 months ago

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

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WilburM 1 year, 7 months ago

There surely has been a lot of reporting, mostly by the intrepid Mr. Lawhorn. But this project has changed week to week, even day to day. There are still many loose ends and lots of unanswered questions, re liability, ownership, capacity to profit, usage restrictions, etc. This has been convoluted from the start, probably not on purpose, but because it's been rushed at every stage, not carefully examined. And two proponents are leaving the commission, with the one staying -- Mike Amyx, against it. No, this needs more scrutiny, more transparency. And even though I usually do not favor public votes, I think this project should have one -- simply to resolve that the community is supportive.

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Tony Kisner 1 year, 7 months ago

Building a community gym is very complicated finance beyond the understanding of taxpayers.

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George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree with Ms Pogany's recent letter. This thing went from a gleam in somebody's eye to a major initiative in less time than it took us to repair the overpass by Haskell.

I believe we still do not know all the aspects of the project. Annual costs seem to vary. Responsibilities seem to be unclear or unresolved (driving the cost uncertainty). Why this undertaking is more important than the many other known needs of the city has never been adequately explained. Th funding stream (our tax money) can be redirected easily. Misinformation arguing how we are in desperate need for more gym space has been clearly refuted. Why we want to put all our new gym space in one corner of the city has never been explained.

If we are going to form a business/charity/governments partnership transparency is very important and that includes an understanding of just how much the business element stands to gain at the expense of the taxpayer. What kind of commissioners do we have who allow themselves to be stampeded by commercial interests. They are there to protect our interests..

If we waited a year what would the cost to the city be? Are our partners threatening us with costs increases that are totally unreasonable and inconsistent with the notion of shared activity. Why can the KU construction not take place independent of what we might choose to do. Is the charitable money offered conditioned upon a timetable?

The real question is why are we in such a hurry?? If we waited a year what would happen??

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree almost completely (that's nice:-)

But we don't even have to wait a year - we can just wait a couple of months until the new city commissioners have been elected. This is clearly a campaign issue now, and the new commission will reflect how voters feel about this issue more than the current one.

I read that the current commission won't even be in place when the bids come in for approval - there's no good reason to make any financial commitments now.

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Not a complete and accurate quote.

And, if you notice, folks who tend towards being liberal on these comments are generally against this project, while conservatives like it - hmmm.

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

cheeseburger's comments slam Pelosi, a noted liberal, suggesting that liberals are to blame for this sort of project and process.

Since all of the liberals on this board oppose this project, and those in favor tend to be conservative, his comment is incorrect.

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George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months ago

Only noting that I oppose and I am not liberal - not a brother Sam conservative either.

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 7 months ago

From the editorial: "Would the five commissioners stake the financial futures of their own businesses on the same careless and sloppy oversight they have given the proposed Rock Chalk Park project?"

Answer: No; they would not.

If the commissioners were voting to spend their own combined personal savings on this project: No, they would not gamble $2+ million of their own money okaying a blind faith Phase 1 payment on this project.

And if the five commissioners were requesting an LLC-type business loan from a bank: No, any bank's officers would deny the loan based on the number of unanswered ownership/operational questions and incomplete legal paperwork.

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George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months ago

I would argue that this issue is a learning point.

All liberals do not demand everything conservatives demand government money as much as liberals not all conservatives believe in business at all costs.

To remind those you off the election way back when our SECSTATE ran for president - nuance, nuance.

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