Archive for Thursday, January 23, 2003

$2.6 million plan offers flexibility

January 23, 2003

Despite some concerns raised about the burden a new pool would place on taxpayers, the Eudora City Council decided at a community forum and special meeting Tuesday to push forward with the current plan. Designed with input from community members, the current design is estimated to cost $2.6 million.

The Council decided reducing the cost by several hundred thousand dollars wouldn't change the minds of those planning to vote "no" unless designers were able to knock the price down more significantly.

After a public hearing at its Feb. 10 meeting, the Council will vote on a resolution to place the question on the April ballot.

The not-to-exceed limit will allow the Council and designers to rearrange the design should it appear the current design, which includes two slides, a meeting room and many shade structures, would cost more than $2.6 million. Also, such features could be included as alternates.

Norbert and Margaret Grosdidier told the group Tuesday that the city needed to remember taxpayers were also paying off a $16 million high school as well as facing a tough economy, especially for farmers.

"I don't want to see kids without a pool," Norbert Grosdidier said. "But we need to see what's going on in our community."

Council member Willene Blackburn said she thought the cost of the new high school might benefit pool supporters because voters would see that $2.6 million paled in comparison with $16 million.

Although the Council will discuss the issue further at its meeting Monday, the idea was raised Tuesday that a sales tax question be included on the ballot. That would mean if voters said "yes" the pool's funding would come from both sales tax and property tax, but if voters said "no," property tax only would float the cost of the pool.

Estimates showed a half-cent sales tax, placed on top of the city's current 6.4 percent, would earn about $83,500 a year. At a $2.5 million cost and assuming a 4.7 percent debt service -- which in April might look more like 4.2 percent -- the mill levy for 15 years would be about 9.4. In 20 years, the mill levy would be 7.85, and if the city pushed itself and wanted to pay it off in 10 years, the mill levy would be 12.5 for the new pool.

Because designers said a new pool would last about 30 years, even at 20 years, the city could pay off a pool before its life expectancy was over. Norbert Grosdidier pointed out that with Eudora growing the way it has been, the longer it took to pay off the pool, the more property and people there would be to contribute.

City Administrator Mike Yanez said the city could always refinance the pool should valuations increase dramatically. One thing that would help that, said Council member Rex Burkhardt, is to have a thorough economic development plan that would bring more industry to Eudora, thus increasing valuations.

Moreover, the group raised the issue that a new, water park-type pool facility would be a draw to people looking to relocate. Council member Dan Gregg said a pool was an important feature to offer Eudorans, especially children.

Blackburn said, "It's time to think about building something in Eudora with the features that will keep people from going to Lawrence."

Even though pools aren't a revenue-generating operation, designer Ford Bohl said adding or rearranging new equipment or offering special programs, like movie nights where viewers float in the water while watching a flick, keeps people interested in the pool.

The group tossed around the idea of an indoor pool that could be used year-round, but problems like staffing the facility in the school months -- because the pool employs mostly students -- and constructing a building, whose cost usually doubles that of the pool itself, meant the group left the idea behind.

One suggestion the designers will look into is adding a deeper swimming area for teenagers. Recreation Commission member Arline Kindle said older children wanted to swim where they couldn't touch. Constructing a separate deep tank could tack on another $100,000, designers said, but deepening some of the lap lanes could increase the cost by about $15,000.

"I think it's a shame if we have a $2.6 million pool and the teenage kids don't want to use it," Kindle said.

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