In 12 to 16 months, the City of Sedalia and its Parks and Recreation Department plan to seek a one-eighth cent sales tax increase to pay for a $24 million community center to be built on the former Jennie Jaynes Stadium property, according to Parks and Recreation Director Mark Hewett.
Hewett said the plan is to build the community center in two phases. Phase one would include managers’ offices, a lobby, a babysitting room, a fitness room, an elevated three-lane walking track, meeting rooms, a gym, a senior center and a full kitchen. Phase two would be the addition of a swimming pool. Hewett compared it to Warrensburg’s community center, but plans call for Sedalia’s center to be bigger.
Hewett said the city bought the Jennie Jaynes property with the intention to tear down the stadium and with that, the No. 1 goal for the property is to build a community center. Due to the stadium’s lack of parking and weakened structural integrity, coupled with fears of an accident occurring while football fans who parked at First Christian Church crossed U.S Highway 65, Hewett said it was time for Jennie Jaynes Stadium to come down.
“It was just an outdated facility,” he said. “We have to come up to times.”
Hewett said the city will have to do without the pool initially in order to build the community center, as the pool takes up half the project’s budget.
Sedalia Mayor Stephen Galliher said, “I’d like to see one of the first things put up be a senior center. … The one we have now has been there for a long time.”
Community funds will be needed to cover construction costs, and taxation plays its part.
“Our stumbling block right now is the tax available to get the thing built,” Hewett said. “I know people are on fixed incomes, and it’s hard financially for people, but if it is something they feel is necessary, they’ll vote for it.”
However, Sedalia and Pettis County must reimburse the Missouri Department of Revenue $1.9 million after an undisclosed local business made an overpayment on its sales tax. In paying for the community center, Galliher said, “We would have been a lot better off if this hadn’t have happened.”
The timeline for construction of the community center is not directly affected by the sales tax repayment, but Galliher said various fundraising methods would determine how quickly the project would be completed.
Nick Veale, of Sedalia, said the city needs a community center and he would be willing to pay a tax increase to get one. Galliher has some concerns in using tax dollars to pay for the project.
“I hope we find a funding way so we don’t have to sink taxpayers’ dollars into it every year to keep it afloat,” the mayor said. “I know Warrensburg, they came back three times to the voters and asked for money just to keep it going.”
Amy Epple, recreation superintendent for Warrensburg’s Parks and Recreation Department, said, “We are not profitable, but we do break even,” and that tax dollars are needed to keep Warrensburg’s community center running. “We run our facility from taxes and user fees,” she said.
Hewett is bothered that Sedalia’s project has not gone on the ballot yet for approval.
“What I hate is we haven’t even tried,” he said. “Put it on the ballot. I’m not afraid of failing, but you don’t know where you stand … Let’s put it to the vote of the people … If they don’t want it, they’ll vote against it.”
With other infrastructure problems such as roads needing attention, Galliher said, “I think they’d put (a community center) off to fix other major problems.”
Mike Cassidy, who recently moved to Sedalia from Warrensburg, said Sedalia would benefit from a community center like Warrensburg’s and he also would be willing to pay an extra tax for the building. Cassidy would like amenities such as a pool, track, extra rooms and basketball courts included in the community center.
Epple, former recreation superintendent for the Sedalia Parks and Recreation Department, said Sedalia has some needs to be addressed, but that the city would benefit from a community center.
“Sedalia is a great community that has so much growth, community involvement and it also has many needs that are missing. I have no doubt that a community center would fill a large gap of those needs,” she said. “The impact that a community center would have on the citizens of Sedalia and its surrounding communities would be one of the most positive impacts that could reach everyone.”
Smith-Cotton High School student Rebecca Hall contributed to this report. Rookie Reporters Chase Plymell and Eli Kemp are students at Smith-Cotton High School.