An article in the Democrat two weeks ago about a proposed Sedalia Community Center sparked quite the online conversation from Facebook users.
The proposed community center, located in Liberty Park, would cost about $14 million for a 46,600-square-foot building that would be constructed in two phases; phase two would be adding an indoor pool. The center features an entryway in the middle of the building, with a community gathering area and a gym on either side.
“We’re out of room (at Convention Hall). We have a 105-year-old building that is housing our entire Parks and Recreation Department,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Hewett. “… We’re turning away people for our leagues. We do not have room to properly run the Parks and Recreation Department. We’re at our breaking point. … This is our next step.”
To help pay for the construction and maintenance of a center, the Park Board is asking the Sedalia City Council to put a tax issue on the April 2017 ballot asking voters to approve a 1/8-cent sales and use tax. That would increase the total sales tax in Sedalia from 8.1 percent to 8.225 percent, which, contrary to some of those Facebook conversations, is still less than Kansas City’s tax rate.
To help clarify some points and offer more information, the Democrat sat down with Hewett this week to ask questions taken directly from the comments on the Democrat’s Facebook page.
Hewett reminded citizens that town hall meetings will be hosted in February and March to help address questions and concerns about the project.
Democrat: Will it have a pool?
Hewett: I’m not going to stop until we get a pool. … All the designs we have are fit for Phase Two. We are not leaving Phase Two out. All the engineering, everything is done to add a pool. The adjacent locker rooms here even, that’s an extra cost we didn’t have to add, but it’s for the pool. It’s just a starting point, it’s not the end point where we want it.
D: Have city officials visited other cities with community centers?
H: Several years ago, they did tours of the different facilities and they went to six or seven community centers that had different facilities. I was on a couple of those, different community leaders on a bus with 25 or 30 people. I have been to other community centers so I have a pretty good working knowledge of what they all have.
D: Will the tax expire? When this facility needs repairs will they raise taxes again?
H: Our intention for this is to not sunset the 1/8-cent sales tax. We’d put it on the ballot and if approved it would continue because if it sunsets in 20 years, we still need to maintain this. … You want to sunset the tax because it sounds good, but it’s not the best thing to do in the interest of maintenance.
D: How far off is Phase Two?
H: I can guarantee you that Phase Two is going to be our No. 1 priority, we want to get to Phase Two. I want Phase Two. I am a pool person … It really breaks my heart that we cannot get them a pool at this time, but I really want to include a pool. I think a pool is vital to the overall community center once it’s in place. We’ve done it every way on paper it possibly could be. At this point, according to my calculations, we can financially build a pool, but we can’t bring the other things with it for any kind of revenue, so on year-round that pool could not sustain the overhead because it would take all of our money.
D: What do membership or usage fees consist of?
H: The track will be free and we will have identification or a wristband. Everyone will pay either a daily, monthly or yearly membership … The (proposed) daily admission of $4 will get you into that facility, you can use the weight room, the aerobic room, the child care and indoor playground. … The leagues and all special programs will be different (fees), but they will be reduced for members; to what rate, we don’t know yet.
D: How will this new project affect the maintenance of other parks?
H: We are so fortunate to have the special projects money that have allowed us plenty of other money to use on an ongoing basis for special projects, and this has all been done with Park Board approval and oversight. Our main function is to maintain the parks system, so we’re doing this as a needed function of the parks system. This is not a special project in our opinion, this is a needed function to continue our programs and events, but we will still have ample money to do our park projects from here on out.
D: Will this shut down local fitness businesses?
H: The National Parks and Recreation did a survey and they found that if you put a municipal golf course in your community, it adds to the country club. … Our fitness center is, No. 1, very small, and it’s basic equipment. We are not in it to compete with them. “However, fitness is the one portion that will create the most opposition from the private sector and YMCA. The private sector will claim competition, but the reality is, that the private sector caters to a different niche market than a public community center,” Hewett read from information regarding the proposed center.
D: Is there a way to fund this without a tax increase?
H: No. They did some bonds for the fire station, they’re trying to get the police station with some certain things, but this is at a level that we can’t do it. $14 million is just too much money and then there’d be absolutely no money to maintain it.
D: Would the stormwater area be basically the same thing as the lagoon in the park? If so would it be stocked for fishing?
H: It is an area that you won’t even notice that there’s water there. It will temporarily slow it and (the artist’s rendering) just shows where the area is. There should not be any standing water for more than a couple of hours.
D: How much did these plans cost taxpayers?
H: This is costing from the start to finish is $20,000. That’ll get us to the building phase and then the building phase comes out of the $14 million.
D: Will the Senior Center be relocated to the new community center?
H: The event center is going to be the Senior Center. The dashes (on the artist’s rendering) are sliding doors, so these open up, so we will have probably an office for the senior coordinator and then they will use as much of the (event center) as they need during the day. Then they vacate that about 2 or 2:30 p.m. and then we have this available for rental at night. We can put these doors back. They have use of the kitchen. They’re going to have to help, they’re going to have to equip this kitchen and they’ll have to pay a monthly fee to be determined to use this facility and it will be very cheap. They will use it Monday through Friday from about 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then occassionally for special events. They will establish permanent residence here in the events center.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.