If there ever was a perfect example of talking out of both sides of your mouth, City Hall officials and some city commissioners have provided it to city taxpayers.
Several city commissioners and the city manager, apparently with the full approval of Kansas University Endowment Association officials and KU Athletics officials, championed the building of a multimillion-dollar city recreation facility and a KU athletic complex without any honest, totally above-board competitive bidding.
They jammed this idea down the throats of the public, offering various weak and questionable justifications for this unusual policy.
Last week, bids were opened for the city’s recreation center, and the price tag came in far below what city professionals had projected. Why they were so far off base is another question.
However, city officials were pleased with the significantly lower costs and immediately wanted it known they have been in favor of competitive bidding from the outset.
That’s not true. From the beginning, these same individuals rejected any idea of tough, competitive bidding. The public has been jerked around on this project from the beginning, and there are likely to be further surprises.
The only entity in this City of Lawrence, KU Athletics, KU Endowment and local developer Thomas Fritzel cabal that seems to be trying to exercise even a slight degree of judgment is KU Endowment, which reportedly has refused to sign the master development agreement until it receives additional information.
The public has no idea of the true cost of the project and, unfortunately, probably never will. Likewise the public probably never will know who made how much on the project.
Here again, a city commissioner has said he really doesn’t care who made how much or how they orchestrated the project.
From the outset, the idea of a large recreation park seemed like an excellent idea. There were questions about the location and many other much-discussed facets of the project. Hopefully, it will turn out to be a winner, but the process for pursuing this project does not reflect credit on many of those involved in the effort and who are sure to want the park to be a monument to their leadership in the city.