Archive for Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lawrence commission approves downtown ice skating rink on split vote

September 2, 2014


By Thanksgiving, visitors to downtown Lawrence should have the chance to do triple salchows, toe loops and a host of other ice skating moves.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting approved an $80,000 bid to set up a rink of artificial ice in the plaza between the expanded Lawrence Public Library and the new parking garage on Vermont Street. But the approval didn’t come without some concern.

“I’m having a hard time doing this after we’ve just gone through budget season and we’ve told departments that that we’re taking this or that away from them,” Mayor Mike Amyx said.

Amyx noted that during the budget process the city denied many equipment requests from departments, even telling leaders of the city’s new rental inspection program that its inspectors would have to drive used police cars rather than new vehicles.

Commissioner Mike Dever said he also was concerned about the $80,000 expenditure, especially given that the city is set to open the new recreation center at Rock Chalk Park in the coming weeks. He said the city needs to have some cushion in its parks and recreation budget to absorb any unexpected expenses related to the opening.

Commissioners approved the bid on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Jeremy Farmer, Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm supporting the plan. They noted the bulk of the funding for the rink and equipment will come out of the city’s guest tax fund, containing tax revenue from hotel stays, and not the general fund that was targeted for budget cutting.

Riordan, a physician, said the increased opportunity for winter exercise outweighed any concerns he had about funding. Farmer said he’s received a host of positive comments from the public about the rink.

Plans call for the rink to be 60 feet by 80 feet, which is large enough to accommodate about 125 skaters. The surface would be a sheet of artificial ice made from a slick plastic material. Parks and recreation leaders plan to have the rink up by Thanksgiving and to leave it up through the second week of January. The rink then could be removed for the season and the plaza area could be returned to a grass surface to host other outdoor events.

The $80,000 bid includes a supply of skates that the city could rent to patrons. Preliminary plans call for a $3-per-skater fee to use the rink,

In other news, city commissioners:

• Accepted an offer from the Kaw Valley Kickball League to fund the construction of an old-time scoreboard at the stadium in Hobbs Park in East Lawrence.

The league, which has about 500 members and uses the East Lawrence park for games on Sunday nights, has raised about $15,000 for the project. Plans call for the scoreboard to feature placards that are manually changed as runs are scored.

“Every week, somebody is going to have to be in charge of putting those numbers up there,” said Jacki Becker, a member of the league’s board.

The scoreboard would be beyond the outfield fence in left-center field and would be available for use by softball, baseball and other teams that use the turn-of-the-century Lawrence Municipal Stadium.

Plans call for the scoreboard to be in place by the beginning of the kickball league’s season opener in May.

• Deferred for one week a request by Lawrence Bank to temporarily have exclusive use of two public parking spaces near Eighth and Massachusetts streets. Downtown Lawrence Inc. had expressed some concern about the request, which comes as the bank moves from Ninth and New Hampshire streets to Eighth and Massachusetts streets. The bank is moving because its current building will be torn down to make room for a new multistory building, which when finished will include offices for the bank.


David Reynolds 3 years ago

Just another example of a lack of priorities & a total disregard for tax payer money by our city commission. This is another "NON-ESSENTIAL" expenditure. We can't afford a police station, but we can spend money on a whim?

The commission justifies this in the name of exercise. How about people just walking, they will get plenty of exercise at no cost to the city.

Where is the fiscal responsibility of this city commission?

David Reynolds 3 years ago

When the commission is requesting a tax increase, how about the commission show good faith with the taxpayers, and pay for this ice skating rink and its up-keep with their own money if it is so important.

Mary Ellen Hall 3 years ago

$80K for an artificial ice rink that's not even going to be open all winter? It's going to be open less than 2 months! Pardon my verbage but that's just retarded. Way to be fiscally responsible commissioners - as if we'd expect anything more.

Fred Henderson 3 years ago

Water treatment plant and new police department facilities are needed more than this friviolous waste of funds. Who is going to be responsible for injuries that will most definitely occur? Will the area be fenced to keep out ' the just having fun group' after hours. A waste of funds to cater to the very few.

David Reynolds 3 years ago

The article states that, They (referring to the city commission)..."noted the bulk of the funding for the rink and equipment will come out of the city’s guest tax fund, containing tax revenue from hotel stays, and not the general fund that was targeted for budget cutting."

All "Funds" have a budget and use of the tax revenue generated by the taxes collected. Thus the obvious question is: "What is being cut out of the "city's guest tax fund" budget? Or, by it's action, is the city commission saying/treating this fund as a "slush fund?" If there is so much reserve in the "guest tax fund" that we can fund "non-essential" items like the ice skating rink, should the guest tax be reduced? Or do we want to over charge our guests that come to town?

Also interesting is the Parks & Recreation budget is also strapped for funds. How can it support something like this?

The commission can not seriously think that this ice skate rink will be a "tourist attraction", and thus be self-supporting, can they? Especially when it won't be open during the key winter months. If so the commission needs to show that written financial analysis to the public, & the unwarranted cost of the report. Interesting this kind of justification was not mentioned prior to the vote to approve this needless expense.

This is just another example of a lack of "financial discipline" by this city commission.

Thank you Commissioners Amyx & Dever for having the fore site to not support this project.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

That new Rec Center will always be a tax dollar money hole due to the rush to approval. And not allowing the largest stakeholders in the mix aka taxpayers to vote on the issue.

Park Department likely has plenty of money and if it does not the Rec center should never have been built. What's the problem?

Voting taxpayers want to know.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

"This is just another example of a lack of "financial discipline" by this city commission."

When in the last 25-30 years was there a commission that demonstrated fiscal discipline?

Bedroom communities backed with reckless growth patterns fiscal disasters. Local profiteers are being allowed to drain OUR pocketbooks and increase OUR taxes.

Sue McDaniel 3 years ago

All I can think of is you MUST be kidding.....they are dooming the projects that are needed to voter backlash. I wish I could be so creative with my budget.

Sue McDaniel 3 years ago

All I can think of is you MUST be kidding.....they are dooming the projects that are needed to voter backlash. I wish I could be so creative with my budget.

Scott Quenette 3 years ago

Why do I get the feeling that if this was on the west side there'd be less complaining?

Scott Quenette 3 years ago

I live on the west side but am very aware of the dynamic. RCP was built, wasn't it? For a lot more than 80k

Mike Silverman 3 years ago

So many comments here practically define the phrase "penny wise and pound foolish"

The city is basically spending a pittance on something that will provide a significant amount of enjoyment for the citizens of the city, be unique, and fun.

There is nothing wrong with spending money to make this town a better place to live. That is what our city government is for, that is why they were elected.

David Reynolds 3 years ago

Mike, really? That is fine when you have the money. The commission is asking us for a tax increase for projects. We should be spending money on "needs" not "wants". In the grand scheme of things this is not a needed expense.

The commission should also consider how it looks to the voter when you spend money like this & simultaneously as for a tax increase.

Mike Silverman 3 years ago

Respectfully David, I disagree on the wants vs needs thing. I think that the "wants" are among the things that make Lawrence a desirable place to live and work, and I have no problem with the city spending my tax money (even if I have to pay a bit more of it) to provide these kind of public features that benefit everyone.

I understand others don't feel this way, and that is why we have elections and spirited debates over such things, as is proper in a democracy.

Clark Coan 3 years ago

$80,000 is a lot cheaper than operating the two city pools let alone the new Rock Chalk Park Sports Pavilion. Kids might really enjoy it.

Due to global warming we don't have enough regular ice, so it has to be synthetic. I remember trying to ice skate on Potter Lake but my skates were too big to support my ankles.

I hope that during the rest of year they put tables with umbrellas out there in the courtyard.

Brock Masters 3 years ago

Due to global warming......

Clark you do know they don't import the ice from glaciers don't you? They make it which is why they are able to have a NHL hockey team in Florida.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years ago

Hey Fred, Have you noticed some grass is staying green almost year round now? Or a hundred years ago they were cutting ice out of the Kaw and storing it? Personally I wouldn't even try to walk across the Kaw now days.

Brock Masters 3 years ago

So Larry what is your point or do believe like Clark that the ice in rinks is dependent upon the climate and not man-made?

Climate change has nothing to do with using synthetic ice.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years ago

Sorry! I misunderstood your post. :(

Brock Masters 3 years ago

No problem. I probably wasn't clear enough. Posting isn't always the best way to communicate.

David Reynolds 3 years ago

Mike Silverman, your response supporting "wants at the expense of needs" is exactly why we are in the fix we are in, having to raise taxes for our needs.

There is a critical view that needs to be considered here. That is that the tax increase to support the police station is not a creation of the police department. This tax increase is an unnecessary creation of this city commission. The city commission is where the blame belongs, not the police.

The new police station needs our support in November.

The city commission had the choice at the beginning of the year to spend bond money either on the police station, water treatment plant or the recreation center. By voting for the recreation center they implicitly voted against the police station & water treatment plant.

What should NOT BE SUPPORTED are the three commissioners that created this problem when they are up for reelection in April.

Jeanne Cunningham 3 years ago

Who has actually indicated that he/she would use this facility? Was any sort of poll taken?

Aaron McGrogor 3 years ago

I'd go.

I imagine a lot of people would go.

Carol Bowen 3 years ago

There was a survey awhile back. I think a skating rink was one of the requests.

Sam Crow 3 years ago

"...... even telling leaders of the city’s new rental inspection program that its inspectors would have to drive used police cars rather than new vehicles."

I cant imagine the horror of it !!!

Jonathan Becker 3 years ago

Jeremy: You say a host has contacted you in support. Please identify the 600 soldiers that contacted you. :-)

Would someone run against this overexagerator . . . please, . . . with a cherry on top.

Carol Bowen 3 years ago

I think the anger expressed in the posts above is misplaced. It is very appropriate for a parks department to offer a skating rink. (Although I question the location.) The community is just realizing the costs involved with the new recreation center and other financial responsibilities like the police facility and another water treatment plant. I felt a knee jerk reaction to the cost of the Ousdahl and 23rd Street flooding problem, myself.

The city commission spent quite a bit of time and energy seeking input on the rec center. It's too late for input now. That does not mean we should abdicate the city's other expenses. Hopefully, the community will pay more attention to city government and provide input. They only know what they hear from us.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years ago

None of my family have been ice skating and we are really looking forward to it. The new library is beyond wonderful. It will be great to be able to look out at the skaters. I hope they have booths selling hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.

I am thinking that some of our painters could paint some scenes of the rink, the skaters, and the library from different perspectives and offer the painting for sell at the library. Maybe even offer to put patrons in the scenes for a fee. I would love to have that.

Has the rink got a name yet? How about Walden Pond? Vote here, peoples.


Philipp Wannemaker 3 years ago

How about "Another Taxpayer Funded Ripoff"?

Wayne Kerr 3 years ago

I like the idea of bringing the community together at the library for ice skating and hot chocolate. However, calling our fake plastic rink Walden Pond would be a complete insult to Thoreau and his naturalist philosophy. I'm hoping that when it's cold enough we can perhaps pour some real water on top of the fake plastic rink? Kind of like having fake snow on a ski slope until the real stuff falls from the sky and covers it up.

It's unfortunate that for thirty million dollars an indoor skating rink wasn't part of the new Rock Chalk recreation facility. That would be something me and my family might actually use. Could you imagine all the people from near and far lined up to go ice skating on a hot summer day? Instead of building more basketball courts, an indoor ice rink could have been something unique to our city that would have set our facility apart from all the rest.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years ago

Man, what a bunch of cranky whiners in this thread! It' not like Lawrence has too many amenities that can actually be used by the younger kids that can't go to bars!

Eric Neuteboom 3 years ago

A few questions I have:

  • what is the use expectancy or lifetime of this synthetic (awful sounding) surface?

  • were alternatives considered, like waiting for deep winter, and flooding the area or another for some (call me crazy) natural ice skating?

  • does anyone have any experience on this surface?

This whole thing sounds like it's very poorly thought through, and I would not be surprised at some voter backlash. I'd much prefer real ice to this crap.

Wayne Kerr 3 years ago

Those are all good questions. I'd be interested to know more about this fake ice like surface myself. I don't think you're the only one who thinks this plan for an ice rink hasn't been properly thought through. I would prefer real ice, too. If it isn't cold enough to skate on real ice it kind of defeats the purpose for having a rink as one could probably be outside playing Frisbee, riding a bike, or be out enjoying many other mild weather outdoor sports.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years ago

what is the use expectancy or lifetime of this synthetic (awful sounding) surface? At least 15 years. were alternatives considered, like waiting for deep winter, and flooding the area or another for some (call me crazy) natural ice skating? Natural ice skating in Ks is just not an option anymore. It doesn't get cold enough or stay cold long enough. Plus the synthetic ice rink can be used year round.

Josh Thompson 3 years ago

I know my kids are going to love this addition to Lawrence. And what's wrong with the TWO PD facilities we have in Lawrence now!?

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