Archive for Thursday, December 11, 2003

Park board mulls new pool figures

Lexington Avenue access removed from latest proposal

December 11, 2003

As it began discussions Monday that are to lead to a recommendation to the De Soto City Council for a new swimming pool, the De Soto Park and Recreation Board received new facts and a familiar pitch.

Before asking the park board for its recommendations, the Council decided to put a bond issue before city voters in April that would build a new pool behind the De Soto Community Center.

A concept pool design was shared with the Council last year. The concept proposed to the park board differed little from that design with one exception: Lexington Avenue access was no longer included in the project's scope, City Administrator Greg Johnson said. The city administrator presented the park board with figures on the debt service needed to pay off the bond needed to build the pool and projections of its annual operating expense.

Conservative estimates for the new facility put construction costs and associated bond fees at about $2.655 million. A 20-year bond plan, as proposed, would require a $208,000 annual debt service. This expense would be stated in a bond question, but mill levy consequences of the pool's the operating costs would not.

The second figure, which depends both on cost and attendance, has been the subject of debate with Councilman Emil Urbanek rejecting consultant Ballard King and Associates's estimate as too optimistic.

Johnson presented the park board operating cost projections based on different attendance estimates that would have the pool running in the red from $6,992 to $62,257 a year (see graphic, Page 6A). The projections included two different estimates developed by consultant Ballard King and Associates. One assumed the pool-user population of 20,000 (USD 232)and the other assumed a user population of 12,000.

Johnson said he also received information on Baldwin City's operating deficit for 2003. The pool was comparable to the proposed De Soto design. The figures were a $25,000 contribution from the city and the other subtracts that subsidy from operating costs.

Finally, the city administrator provided deficit the city incurred for operating the current pool in 2003.

The swimming pool would consist of five 75-foot swimming lanes, fountains, and a swirl-shaped slide. In addition, the swimming pool would be adjacent to a neighboring picnic and playground area.

City Council member and former park board pool committee chairwoman Mitra Templin touched on familiar themes in her pro-pool pitch to the park board.

"The design for this pool would keep everyone in the city happy," City Council member and former park board pool committee chairwoman Templin said. "It would be utilized by families in the area for the next 10 years."

The 10,000 square foot pool would not completely monopolize property behind the community center. Land would be left aside for future improvements. The construction of a new community swimming pool would help accomplish the city's broader goal of attracting people to the downtown area.

"The city needs the swimming pool to attract people to invest in the downtown area," Templin said. "If we want to keep this area the core of the city, then this pool would help to establish the area as a centralized location."

Park board members were optimistic that this new plan would finally get the bond issue before voters and approved. Board member Duke Neeland, who opposed past bond concepts, including a proposed indoor/outdoor complex at De Soto High School, expressed a willingness to support the current proposal.

"I opposed the last plan because it seemed to extravagant," he said. "I'm more accepting of the proposal this time around, because it doesn't try to incorporate the road crossing plan as the last one did."

If the bond was to pass, public meetings demonstrating the plan and its differences from the previous proposals would have to be scheduled, said park board member Barry Thierer.

"A lot of people aren't going to pay taxes on it every year if they aren't going to use it," he said. "Regardless of the value it brings to the city, they just won't want to pay for it."

Thierer was also concerned that De Soto residents be assured a rate schedule that would provide them with lower user fees than non-residents, who wouldn't pay taxes to retire debt or cover the pool's operating cost. Templin predicted residents of Eudora, western Shawnee and Olathe would make trips to a new De Soto swimming facility, and with it, boost to the local economy.

"A reduced user rate for De Soto residents could be possible, but the projected entry fee for pool users would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.50," Templin said. "This is a cost that's lower than what you will find at the Lawrence, Lenexa and Shawnee pools."

City Engineer Mike Brungardt was happy to see the issue of a new swimming pool moving ahead. Brungardt urged the park board to compile a plan that would detail the value and appeal of a new swimming facility to area residents of all ages

"This is a great location for everyone in the community," Brungardt said. "Having it next door to the senior center and the Community Center is going to make it a great place for families. I finally see an end to all of this."

The park board agreed to continue to study the plans for the new proposal and to develop a draft of the bond referendum for the City Council's consideration. The bond issues would then be voted on the ballots in April with the proposed construction set to open the new swimming facility in the summer of 2005.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.