Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2001

Council to study recreational programs

January 25, 2001

The DeSoto Youth Baseball and Softball Association has offered the city council two birds in the bush for one in hand.

The offer came from the association's commissioner, Don Clark, at last Thursday's city council meeting.

Clark asked the city council to forgive the user fees the association will owe for the use of city ballparks during the coming summer. In return, the association would use the $4,800 earmarked for user fees to make needed improvements at Miller Park ball fields. In addition, Clark said the association would contribute another $5,000 to the improvements.

Clark presented the council with a list of improvements needed at the parks. Many of the improvements would add lighting or fencing needed to make the ballparks safer, he said.

The youth organization is in a competitive environment with other organizations that use Johnson County and Eudora facilities, Clark said. The improvements are needed if the organization is to continue to attract youngsters to its teams, he said.

Without the increased participation the improvements would bring, the youth association will be forced to make changes, he said.

"Quite honestly, one thing we'll have to look at is raising fees 20 to 30 percent," he said. That could further limit participation, he said, because some families have difficulty paying the current fee.

City Administrator Gerald Cooper said the city couldn't simply excuse the $4,800 without consequences. The city has already budgeted the money it expects to get from the youth association for maintenance at the ballparks this summer.

"That money would have to come out of streets or somewhere," he said. "What do you want me to cut out?"

City council members shared Cooper's concerns, but didn't reject Clark's offer last week. They asked him to come up with estimates of how much the items on his list will cost.

In another parks-related issue, the council was updated about a proposed indoor/outdoor swimming pool and were promised more details next week.

Mitra Templin said the park commission has endorsed a plan developed by a pool committee to build an indoor/outdoor pool complex.

Before making that endorsement, the pool committee considered "patchwork" repairs to the present pool that would cost an estimated $300,000 to $350,000 but not significantly extend the life of an outdated pool, Templin said. A second alternative would build an outdoor-only pool at the cost of $2.1 million to $2.6 million.

In the end, the pool committee endorsed a plan that would have the city and DeSoto school district cooperate in the construction of an indoor/outdoor pool complex that would cost from $2.5 million to $3.2 million.

A pool complex that could serve the needs of all in the community from high school students who want to compete in competitive swimming to seniors who could use a proposed therapy pool could be built for $500,000 more than an outdoor pool only because the complex would make use of the DeSoto High School's lockers and parking, Templin said.

The park commission hopes to finance the pool through a federal grant, Templin said.

Council members questioned Templin about how the partnership with the school district would work. They wondered how time at the pool would be scheduled and which entity would be responsible for its operation and maintenance.

Templin said the park commission would attempt to provide those details at a joint meeting of the city council and the park board concerning the swimming pool proposal next week. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, at Lexington Trails Middle School.

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