On Monday night, the Raymore City Council gathered in front of an empty podium that was meant for the city’s residents. The council meeting included two special hearings: one for the adoption of the fiscal year 2014 budget and the other for the approval of the 2014-2018 Capital Improvement Program.
No citizens of Raymore took advantage of the hearing, though, and thus none of the public was heard.
Interestingly, the issue at the core of the discussion among the councilmembers was something that is very important to the people of the city.
“Recreation center,” “athletic complex,” “civic center,” and “indoor/outdoor recreation facility” are just a few of the terms that the city of Raymore is using to describe a future building that its residents have been waiting for. And as of now there has been about as much disagreement concerning how to plan for and fund the facility as there have been name differences.
According to a city survey that was released in 2012, only 26% of Raymore residents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the indoor recreation spaces within the city limits. The survey also revealed that the number of indoor rec spaces and the quality of indoor rec spaces rank at the top of the list when it comes to the people’s opinion of what Raymore should emphasize the most as it expands.
Therefore, it makes good sense that the city of Raymore is looking at the option of a recreation center to be built sometime in the future.
According to a Council memorandum from September 30, in May 2012, the Raymore Council and Park Board conducted a joint session and, through an independent facilitator, determined a need for a facility that at least included classrooms, a community room, kitchen, gymnasium, and support spaces among other things.
$75,000 for a feasibility study of an indoor recreational facility was placed in the fiscal year 2013 Capital Budget, but the Park Board desired to get the Hawk Ridge Master Plan on its way before starting the study.
Now that the Park Board is ready to take on the feasibility study, they have requested that $20,000 of additional funds for an outdoor recreational facility be added to the $75,000 to make a total of $95,000 for the study to be placed in the fiscal year 2014 budget.
City Manager Eric Berlin was concerned about the combination of the two studies, saying that “it may not provide the City the guidance it will need when a decision regarding a no-tax-increase bond issue arrives next year.”
Berlin went on to say, “The Park Board did not share my concerns.”
As the budget adjustment issue decided by the Park Board was set before the Council on Monday night, much disagreement ensued.
The first amendment that the Council was to discuss was a reservation of $500,000 from general/undesignated funds for a future recreational center. Ward 1 Councilmember Kevin Kellogg moved that the amount be cut in half to $250,000 and Ward 4 Councilmember Charlene Hubach agreed. After that motion failed with Kellogg and Hubach being the only councilmembers voting in favor, Ward 2 Councilmember Ryan Wescoat moved that the amount be doubled to $1 million. Ward 4 Councilmember Sonja Abdelgawad agreed.
“We have over $1.4 million in undesignated funds,” said Wescoat, calling the large amount in the City’s general fund “inappropriate” and “fiscally irresponsible.”
The other Ward 2 Councilmember, Derek Moorhead, agreed. He stated that it makes sense to designate funds when the City has them instead of taxing the people later.
“It tells the people ‘We hear your voices,’” said Abdelgawad.
Councilmember Hubach disagreed, saying that “surveys are slanted” and no one in her ward wants the city to construct a recreational facility. Hubach did express great concern over the acoustics in the Council Chambers, however.
In the end, the $1 million proposal was shot down after Mayor Peter Kerckhoff broke a 4-4 tie between the councilmembers.
Councilmember Wescoat was not done bringing up issues with the proposal. He spoke of another concern he had which referred to the amount designated for the outdoor facility study. Wescoat’s point was that if the City designated a specific amount for the study (in this case $20,000) that the bidders would look at that number and try to match it regardless of their actual cost.
Eventually, that concern was heard and agreed upon by the Council and the $20,000 for the feasibility of an outdoor recreation facility was undesignated and remains in the general fund.
Since the studies have not yet begun, much less provided any data, the specifics of the future project remain uncertain. City officials have consistently stated that the facility will not match the size and amount of features as the High Blue Wellness Center in Belton or the Harrisonville Community Center.