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Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods calls for public vote on recreation center project, expresses concern about bidding process; two public meetings set on project


Activity around a proposed $25 million city recreation center in northwest Lawrence is starting to heat up again.

The latest news: The city’s largest neighborhood group is now officially calling for a citywide election on the project and is expressing concerns that the proposed bidding process won’t adequately protect the public.

Board members of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods last night unanimously agreed to submit comments expressing concern about the proposed process to build a regional recreation center as part of a public-private sports park just north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

“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 told me this morning. “Under the conditions outlined thus far, we have no assurance that taxpayers will get full value for their money.”

LAN also took the position that a citywide election on the project should be held, “given the magnitude of the project and the resulting long-term debt to be incurred by taxpayers.”

Ruth also said LAN is concerned that the city hasn’t fully weighed the recreation center project against other needed city projects.

“LAN is concerned that the city has failed to fully assess this project’s impact on other needed priorities in our community,” Routh said.

It will be interesting to see if LAN’s position robs the project of any momentum at City Hall. Thus far, it appears the project has solid support from four of the five city commissioners. Commissioner Mike Amyx has been the only commissioner to express strong reservations. But LAN is the largest communitywide organization to express such concerns about the project.

Both opponents and supporters of the project will have a couple of opportunities to get engaged with the project in the coming days.

The citizen’s group Cadre Lawrence is hosting a public forum at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fire Station No. 5 at 19th and Iowa streets. The group has assembled a panel that currently consists of City Manager David Corliss, City Commissioner Mike Dever, Senior Associate Athletics Director Sean Lester and Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect for the project.

Cadre Lawrence is billing the event as an opportunity to get answers from people who “are actually in charge of the project.” But the panel doesn’t include Thomas Fritzel nor a representative from the KU Endowment Association, which will own the land and eventually transfer a portion of it over to the city. I think those entities, particularly Fritzel, are who members of the public want to hear from most.

Fritzel is the Lawrence businessman who is providing all the financing to build the KU facilities at the Rock Chalk Park site, and it recently was revealed that he ultimately will own the facilities that KU Athletics will use. As it is currently structured, Fritzel has the inside track to be the builder of the city’s $25 million recreation center through a process that deviates significantly from the city’s standard bidding process.

I think most people would agree that Fritzel is a key driving force in this proposed project, but near as I can tell, he has never publicly outlined his vision or what he sees as his role in the project either at a City Commission meeting or at a public forum.

The Cadre forum will be structured in a way that people can submit their questions via notecards, but it isn’t designed to be a forum where people can come to the microphone and deliver speeches about their thoughts on the project.

People will get that opportunity at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

City commissioners will take action to finalize the rezoning of the proposed site, and will get their first look at the special use permit application for the project. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on both of those items.

The details of the special use permit are basically as we have reported them in the past, so I won’t go over all that again. In summary, the main uses include the 181,000 square-foot recreation center, which will be owned by the city; and a track and field stadium, softball stadium, soccer field and other amenities that will be owned by a private group led by Fritzel. Those facilities primarily will be used by Kansas University Athletics, but officials have confirmed that Fritzel will have the ability to use the facilities for other events, if certain conditions are met.

The fact that Fritzel will own many of the facilities on the property was revealed to the public fairly late in the process. It will be interesting to see if that becomes an issue in the zoning and special use part of the project. The zoning for the proposed project is slated to be for “General Public and Institutional Uses.” At least one adjacent land owner to the project has questioned what conditions must be met in order for a private company to own the majority of the facilities on property zoned for public and institutional uses.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. Tuesday’s meeting essentially will clear the way for the Fritzel/KU facilities to proceed at the site. But commissioners aren’t yet taking action committing the city to the recreation center idea. That won’t happen until formal agreements between KU entities, Fritzel and the city are presented to commissioners for consideration.


cheeseburger 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm not a huge Fritzel fan, but I'm even less of a fan of Laura Routh and LAN. LAN is primarily representative of central and east Lawrence, and thus really doesn't have a dog in this fight, other than sticking their nose where it doesn't belong and continuing their anti-growth stance.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

So, $25 million in public funds, for which those evil people in E. and Central Lawrence will be on the hook to pay, along with all other local taxpayers, isn't a dog in the fight?

Water 5 years, 5 months ago

It is my understanding the KUEA is providing the $25 million for construction. Following construction KUEA will turn over the facilities to the city. http://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2012/11-13-12/cmo_rec_center_response_madre_lawrence.html

Water 5 years, 5 months ago

It is estimated the completed facility (whatever that means) will cost the city $350,000 per year to maintain. So if the city charges citizens $175 for a 1 year membership, 2000 Lawrencians would cover the bill.

gatekeeper 5 years, 5 months ago

Those of us that pay taxes and don't live in west Lawrence should have NO say in how our tax dollars are spent????

Anyone that thinks we should build this thing when we need streets and water lines repaired and many other basic improvements done around town, is completely out of touch with the citizens of Lawrence. If they build the center up at the Legends, this will be an even bigger waste of tax payer money. Few would travel out here if the same thing is available in KC with better ammenities available.

Please explain how ALL tax-paying citizens of Lawrence shouldn't have a say in how OUR tax dollars are spent in Lawrence. I really want to hear how you back your claim that only those is west Lawrence should have a say in this.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

Fantastic. Perhaps we should cancel the library project?

Taxpayer2 5 years, 5 months ago

Cheeseburger is right. LAN and Routh should focus on Neighborhood issue instead of pretending to be city watchdogs.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

So you registered a while ago, are you Routh?

Phil Minkin 5 years, 5 months ago

The city is made up of various neighborhood. They may have problems and needs specific to that neighborhood, but the priorities the city choose is how to spend money is common to all.

Currahee 5 years, 5 months ago

Why bother? They're still going to build it.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

In his position and in this city, I would never comment on anything. It's all downside because the loudest voices in this city don't care what he has to say.

Phil Minkin 5 years, 5 months ago

The city should build a very nice recreation center on the west side on the ground the city owns near Free State, and let KU and Fritzel build what ever they want and pay for the infrastructure to support it.

kuhusker 5 years, 5 months ago

A public vote is a cop-out. We have a representative system, we elect city commissioners to make these decisions, and if we don't like it, we can kick them out every 2 years. If you want public votes on everything, work to change the form of our city government into a town meeting/referendum form of government.

alex_delaney 5 years, 5 months ago

Out of curiosity, who is to say what is and is not necessary for the City of Lawrence?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Is it your opinion that when the issue concerns "progress," that it should never go to a referendum?

Bob Forer 5 years, 5 months ago

Why is it a cop out? When those folks were running for office it was impossible for the electorate to know the candidates viewpoints on such a large expenditure of public funds. While it would be absurd to conduct referendums on every issue, why not put unusual and special issues like this up for a public vote. The library was a lesser pubic expenditure (17 mil) than the rec center. If the city commission felt that a public vote was appropriate then, why not now, when the money involved is 50 per cent more? What's wrong with following past precedent?.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

Couldn't you say that about every politician? Whenever you elect someone it is theoretically impossible to know the candidates viewpoints on upcoming issues that aren't known at the time of election. Define "unusual and special" issues.

Bob Forer 5 years, 5 months ago

Define "unusual and special" issues? Lets start with a 25 milllion rec center which is the brainchild of the developer who stands to pocket a pile of cash on the deal. I don't recall the public clamoring for a high dollar rec center.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

Ok, but you miss the point: what is unusual and special? You defined it in such a way that it really only fits this project and yet you want public votes on a category of spending defined by "unusual and special." What I suggested is that your point about politicians is meaningless because it is true of all politicians and that "unusual and special" can be defined in any number of ways.

rubysmom 5 years, 5 months ago

Will the city at least have a say on whether they use real grass or the stupid fake turf?

JackMcKee 5 years, 5 months ago

Laura Routh represents a bunch of absentee landlords in the Oread neighborhood. I don't give two rats behinds what she thinks.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 5 months ago

+1 If anyone has ever been to a LAN meeting, they would never put much weight behind any of their statements... I think the entire LAN board were roommates at Bert Nash once upon a time...

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

She's pretty much a professional angry citizen and member of the elite fauxliberal agitator class in Lawrence. See Merrill for another example.

minimadoff 5 years, 5 months ago

Bob Schumm and Mike Dever are in ahhhh of KU and Thomas Fritzel. Schumm's a loser and Dever is weak. They both want their fifteen minutes of fame, to bad it's on the taxpayers dime.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

25 million tax $$$$$$ makes all taxpayers a stakeholder = bring it to a vote please and let the chips fall where they may.

No one knows for sure IF 25 million $$$$$$ will be the final number.

How much will this PLAY project cost the taxpayers annually? $300,000... but no one knows for sure.

Who is funding the maintenance and staffing of this PLAY project? TAXPAYERS Where's the money? When taxpayers bring up fixing sidewalks and designing Lawrence as a "Walkable Community" what taxpayers hear is no money. So where does this $300,000 a year come from?

Should a Westside rec center be approved? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2009/jul/should-city-build-recreation-center-west-lawrence/

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? The school district has spent $20 million on PLAY - has the spending stopped?. No here comes another 25 million tax $$$. http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

What Kind of Rec Center do you want for Lawrence? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/apr/recreation_survey/

Priorities: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

At least cut and paste stuff from this decade.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Laura Routh is well endowed in expertise and information. Laura Routh does her homework and seeks data from many sources. Definitely a professional.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 5 months ago

Laura is obviously not well informed since no one explained the request had been discussed and decided.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 5 months ago

If you believe that, you must think highly of yourself as well (especially since you are one of the LAN "experts").

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

In response to: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/sep/05/town-talk-more-about-proposed-nw-lawrence-sports-c/?city_local

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.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 5 months ago

There is a neighborhood issue on th Tues. agenda? Where does Laura stand on that?

Phil Minkin 5 years, 5 months ago

Those 20 people are representatives of 15 or so neighborhoods in Lawrence. They are more representative of the sentiments of their neighbors than the commissioners, some of whom just represent the chamber and developers.

Taxpayer2 5 years, 5 months ago

LAN stopped representing the residents years ago. They are so busy pretending to be watchdogs they no longer serve the purpose they were intended to fullfill. Today it is just the same old crowd taking turns attacking city offiicials.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

Lol yeah, the math really backs that up. Good try with the logic though.

George Lippencott 5 years, 5 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.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

According to the agenda it appears the City Commission is moving froward in spite of not having reviewed all "agreement documents" and without knowing actual dollar amounts.


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