It’s back to the drawing board, yet again, for the Sedalia Community Center.
Over the last two years, the Sedalia Park Board has received two different plans from architects for a possible community center. Parks and Recreation Director Mark Hewett presented the most recent proposal to the Sedalia City Council during a work session earlier this year to mixed reactions from Mayor Stephen Galliher, City Administrator Gary Edwards and the council members. Hewett announced during Thursday’s Park Board meeting they will once again be looking at more options.
“We’ve come to the general conclusion … we haven’t explored all options,” Hewett told the board. “I think there’s still an underlying theme people want a pool. Well we can’t forget we only have an eighth of a cent, so our hands are tied on that. But in talking to the mayor I think it’s best if we go back, get new RFQs, get the city involved and maybe go about this where we get some citizens’ input, maybe there’s some other financial possibilities out there. We’re going to look at every way possible to get a pool in that thing.”
Hewett was referring to the additional 1/8-cent sales tax increase the board would like the council to put on an upcoming ballot for voters. Sedalia Parks and Recreation, by state statute, can request the 1/8 cent increase, but no more, so Hewett said the plans presented earlier this year were created with that limitation in mind.
“We did the most we could do with what we had to work with,” Hewett told the Democrat after the meeting.
Galliher was in attendance at the Park Board meeting and voiced his opinion.
“I think if we get some of the outside folks in on this and put the pool in it, I think we’ll get the project done for less money and I believe we’ll get some donors, from what I’ve been hearing and seeing,” Galliher said. “… I believe we can get it done with the pool and maybe it’s wishful thinking, I think we can do it a little cheaper. And with the donations it’ll be a lot cheaper.
“I want to clarify something, I am not against this community center,” he added. “Trust me, I see the value in it for the city and the citizens.”
Hewett reminded Galliher and the board that while he’s in favor of looking at more options, they need to move quickly as Parks and Rec is “busting at the seams” in the Convention Hall as programs continue to grow and need more space.
While talking with the Democrat, Hewett pointed out that he doesn’t know of any other Missouri municipalities that included an indoor pool in phase one of a community center.
“The pool is just a big expense, and you have to offset that,” Hewett explained. “We did that research through the Missouri Parks and Recreation and to the executive director’s knowledge, there was no municipality that had built a pool in phase one. All of them were in phase two. You can’t support it in phase one. A pool alone can’t support itself. So you have to start with the community building first.”
The Park Board also talked about improvements at Vermont Park, which the board approved during in March. Parks and Rec will be spending about $877,000 from its special projects fund to completely revamp the park, which includes off-street parking, a new shelter house and restroom, two t-ball fields, basketball court improvements, a new futsal court, which will replace the old tennis court, and new LED lighting in the parking areas and along a new walking trail.
In addition to the new amenities, the large ditch through the middle of the park will be filled in and a pipe will run through it for drainage, which makes it possible for the new fields.
Construction was originally slated to begin in August, but now bids are expected to be opened Nov. 2, with the board voting Nov. 3, which moves construction to December through April. Hewett said the date change is due to the need to split the project cost between two fiscal years — $515,000 has been included in the FY17 budget for the project, with the remaining amount in FY18.
“It was (Engineering Surveys & Services’) opinion, we’re doing this over two budget years, and they thought it’s possible, if we have good weather, if we started in August or September we’re going to finish in this budget year and have to wait (to complete the second half of the project),” Hewett told the Democrat after the meeting. They said ‘we don’t think it’s going to stretch that long. Let’s wait.’”
Hewett said he’s received several positive phone calls from citizens pleased about the Vermont Park project, calling it “neighborhood-changing.
“I don’t think people realize just what a change it’s going to make. It’s not a park project, it’s a neighborhood and a city project because it’s going to improve the whole neighborhood,” Hewett told the Democrat. We want to bring people into the park. It’s always gotten a little bit of a bad rap for vandalism and things … but I think once we get the lights and the walking trail, I think it’s going to be more used and it’s going to help everything, all the way around.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.