Merriam mayor appoints committee to decide future of Irene B. French Community Center

A new committee of Merriam residents is tasked with deciding the future of the Irene B. French Community Center.

Mayor Ken Sissom has appointed nine Merriam residents to serve on a committee to discuss the future of the Irene B. French Community Center.

The nearly century-old building’s days as Merriam’s community center are numbered, as the city prepares for a new community center at Vavra Park. In the meantime, the mayor’s newly appointed committee will begin brainstorming plans for the Irene B. French Community Center.

The committee is tasked with deciding what to do with the building at 5701 Merriam Drive, be it repurposing, selling, demolishing or any other number of options. The city decided several years ago that the community center’s aging infrastructure would need to be addressed.

The council approved the mayor’s appointments in a 7-0 vote during last night’s council meeting. Councilmember Robert Weems was absent.

Nearly 20 residents applied by the end of October to serve on the committee, according to a Nov. 21 memo from city administrator Chris Engel. The select nine represent all four of the city’s wards. Sissom said all nine resident-appointees are involved in the community as either residents or people who represent the city’s downtown partnership.

Members of the new committee include:

Stoney Bogan
Staci Chivetta
Larry Cisneros
Billy Crook
Nida Dillon
Jacob Laha
Fred Tebbenkamp
Carol Whitlock
Sean Zaudke

“It was kind of tough… because we had quite a bit of talent of people that put their hat in the ring,” Sissom said. “I’m pretty happy with the group.”

Two councilmembers, Chris Evans Hands and David Neal, as well as two city staff members, Engel and parks and recreation director Anna Slocum, will serve as non-voting members on the committee. Mayor Sissom will also serve as an ad hoc member.

City leaders and staff can assist the committee by providing guidance on city processes, Sissom added.
The only feedback from councilmembers was to praise the selection for its professionalism and good representation across the city.