Shawnee Dispatch

Shawnee City Council green lights preliminary steps for community center

File photo. Shawnee City Hall is located at 11110 Johnson Drive. Enlarge photo

October 29, 2018

Preliminary steps for the proposed Shawnee community center are underway.

The state-of-the-art facility, to be built at 61st and Woodland, would cost roughly $34.6 million with the possible addition of a swimming pool, adding either $5.6 million or $7 million, depending on the size.

The city plans to build and maintain the facility using revenue from a proposed mill levy increase, which would be voted on during a spring mail-in ballot question.

According to recent city documents, city staff anticipates the phase one costs for the project will be a total of $347,000.

A look at that figure broken down:

At its meeting on Oct. 22, the city council authorized the city manager to negotiate an agreement with Perkins+Will for architectural services for the community center design in phase one.

It also approved awarding the contract for owner's representative services to Project Advocates for phase one (pre-construction, $73,000) and phase two (final design and construction, $342,000) in the total amount of $415,000.

Project Advocates will not be authorized to begin phase two services without written authorization from the city, and it would be contingent upon ballot approval, however.

The vote on the two items was 5-1-0.

Councilman Mike Kemmling voted in dissent.

Councilman Mickey Sandifer was absent.

At a council committee meeting in August, consultants from Perkins+Will offered the governing body a picture of what the proposed facility may look like. The details were pieced together from the most desired amenities residents listed in surveys and public forums earlier this year.

Consultants said an ideal Shawnee community center would feature:

At the Oct. 22 meeting, a couple councilmembers expressed their support for the proposed community center.

In a prepared statement, Councilwoman Stephanie Meyer stated that ever since the land was purchased for the community center site, the project has been a long-term goal for the city.

She said during her five years on the council, a new community center is the number one issue she has heard from constituents.

Plus, dozens of residents have recently reached out to the governing body with their support.

“...over the last four days, I hope all of you on the council have seen some of that excitement as evidenced by the 79 residents who took time to email the council in support of moving the community center forward versus the three who have written in opposed,” Meyer said. “This is an unprecedented response in my time and I truly believe it is just the tip of the iceberg. So many of our residents, who are now forced to use centers in other cities, are ready to bring those dollars home to our community.”

She acknowledged that residents opposed to the community center have stated they believe there are other pressing community needs.

In response to those residents, she pointed out the city is spending a record number of city funds-more than $26 million-on public works projects, including stormwater, road maintenance, and curbs and guttering.

Also, over the past two years, the city has hired eight new police officers and 13 new firefighters.

It is also building a new fire station in western Shawnee and it is allocating funds from the courthouse sales tax to cover other remaining fire department costs.

“Our city’s finances are incredibly strong, with a reserved balance of more than 40 percent—well above the municipal standard of one-third of the city’s annual budget,” Meyer said. “This means in addition to providing excellent city services that you all expect, we’re saving money for a rainy day, like an economic downturn or other catastrophe.”

She also added that the city of Shawnee is continuing to grow, with hundreds of homes slated to be built west of K7 Highway and several companies moving to the city, bringing more than 900 jobs.

“These numbers will only increase,” she said. “Now where are we lacking? In our recreational opportunities. Of our overall budget, only eight percent, or $6.3 million, is spent on our parks and recreation department. That’s eight cents of every dollar, well behind our peer cities. We are the last major city in the metro without a community center.”

Councilwoman Lindsey Constance echoed Meyer’s sentiments, saying she has also received numerous emails from residents expressing their support.

She noted that in past meetings, concerns had been brought up about low-income homeowners possibly being burdened by the mill levy increase.

She pointed out that for a $150,000 home in Shawnee, the monthly increase would be $7.19.

As for the community center fees, she wants the city to look into using grants to help lower-income families be able to join the community center.

She also pointed out that the proposed community center would be less than a 15-minute drive to the easternmost corner of the city, so it would be a viable option for residents on both sides of town.

Constance also sees the community center as an investment in public safety.

“I really do believe that by providing families opportunities to have positive healthy activities that a community center would provide, they’re going to be more engaged in the positive things in our community and less likely to engage in illicit activities,” she said.

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