The Shawnee council has officially hired an architect and owner’s representative for a proposed community center near 60th Terrace and Woodland Drive. Some councilmembers considered these steps to signal the city’s clear intention to move toward a public vote on the project.
The council at its Monday meeting approved 5-1 both of staff’s recommendations on the project. The first was to hire Perkins + Will for $99,000 to provide architectural services in designing a community center. Perkins + Will, which provided initial concepts for the council to view in August, will design a community center within the scope of a $34.7 million budget.
The second was to hire Project Advocates for $415,000 to be the city’s owner’s representative for phases 1 and 2 of the project. Broken up, Advocates’ services will cost $73,000 for phase 1 pre-construction and, contingent upon ballot approval by Shawnee voters, $342,000 for final design and construction.
Councilmember Mike Kemmling cast the single dissenting votes for both action items. There was no discussion from the council or any public comment on the votes. Councilmember Mickey Sandifer was absent.
“While the official action this evening is limited to the approval of architectural services and an owner’s representative, tonight, in my opinion, is about so much more,” said councilmember Stephanie Meyer. “Tonight, we are affirming to our residents our intention to move forward towards a public vote for a community center at 60th and Woodland.
“Tonight, we are affirming that their voices have been heard and that we intend to provide them the opportunity to weigh in on this issue very soon. If that is not our intention, then the city should invest no further resources towards that end, as I believe that would be misleading and irresponsible.”
The council will consider a $75,000 contract for construction manager services at its Nov. 13 meeting.
The Johnson County Election Office estimated a mail-in ballot initiative will cost about $95,665, mostly for postage but also for staff time to count ballots and certify the results. The election office based its estimate on a 30 percent voter participation. Other public entities that have recently had mail-in ballot elections have indicated that the election office’s estimate “has been higher than originally estimated,” so city staff anticipates election costs could be “substantially lower than estimated,” according to an Oct. 22 city memo.
Councilmembers Meyer, Constance reaffirm positive feedback from residents
Meyer said 79 residents have recently written to the city showing their support in moving forward with the community center project, while three have written their opposition.
“This is an unprecedented response in my time, and I truly believe it is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, adding that many residents who use community centers in other cities are “ready to bring those dollars home.”
Meyer cited the city’s healthy finances and economic growth as other positive signs to build a community center now. In the city’s budget, 8 percent or $6.3 million is spent on parks and recreation, which is “well behind our peer cities.” She said Shawnee is the last major city in the Kansas City metro area without a community center.
Meyer urged her fellow councilmembers not to delay the project any further, because the project inflation could add tens of thousands of dollars in additional construction expenses.
Councilmember Lindsey Constance said the city has already invested time and resources to find out if residents want a community center. She’s received “overwhelming support” from residents over the weekend leading up to the meeting.
Constance also addressed concerns from homeowners who may feel that the community center will be “too much of a financial burden” because of the increased property taxes that would be needed to fund it. She said a Shawnee resident owning a $150,000 home would see a monthly tax increase of $7.19.
“I’m not even sure you can purchase a meal at McDonald’s for $7.19,” Constance said, “and I feel like having a community center and an opportunity for kids and families to be active is really going to bring a lot of benefit.”
Constance added that she would like to find ways for “truly underprivileged” residents to afford to participate, such as seeking grants like the Community Development Block Grant.