Library board pondering give-and-take necessary to make relocation of Antioch branch to new Merriam Community Center property feasible

The city of Merriam and the Johnson County Library have been in talks about possibly relocating the Antioch branch to the grounds of the new community center.
The city of Merriam and the Johnson County Library have been in talks about possibly relocating the Antioch branch to the grounds of the new community center.

As talks between the city of Merriam and the Johnson County Library about the possibility of relocating the Antioch branch at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch Road to the nearby site of the new Merriam Community Center continue, the library system’s board and executive team are having to weigh the costs in time and resources that committing to such a project would demand.

At its monthly meeting last week, the library board instructed staff to conduct a detailed review of what impact the Antioch branch relocation would have on the projects and schedule already laid out in the Comprehensive Library Master Plan adopted in 2015.

Executive staff are expected to present a variety of possible scenarios to the board at their January meeting. They will likely make a recommendation for action sometime after that meeting.

“The Library executive team will offer a variety of scenarios to the Board, each with the goal of achieving as much as we can within our means, while not too-much affecting the [master plan] calendar,” said Christopher Leitch, the library’s Community Relations Coordinator. “The calendar is the flexible part, here, though. So, that requires aligning priorities and expectations.”

The 20-year facilities plan adopted in 2015 does recommend the replacement of the current 35,000 square foot Antioch branch with a new facility that would be about half that size and would be wholly devoted to public space. (About half of the space at the current Antioch branch is used for non-public functions). But the Antioch project was not among the first-phase priorities already in construction or planning, which include the construction of the new Monticello branch in western Shawnee, the construction of the new Lenexa Civic Center branch, which will replace the Lackman branch, and projects at the Corinth and Blue Valley branches.

“The Library board continues working to bring the best possible results to the northeast and entire Johnson County Library system,” said Nancy Hupp, library board chair, after last week’s meeting.

With the continuation of a 1/4 percent sales tax approved by voters this fall, Merriam has started the planning process for its new $30 million community and aquatic center facility, which will be located on the grounds of the current pool complex and adjacent Varva Park. The city’s tentative schedule for the project would see the design phase of the project begin in early spring of 2018 on the path toward opening the new center in mid-2020.