Cost-saving plan to install pre-fab shelter at R Park draws criticism from Roeland Park council, residents

A view of the shelter design that had been approved for R Park. The Public Works department was considering the possibility of using a pre-fabricated structure instead.

A cost-saving effort that would switch out the planned R Park custom pavilion with a prefabricated structure was criticized by several councilmembers and the mayor during Monday’s Roeland Park workshop meeting.

The Public Works Department suggested the cheaper pavilion substitute during a recent Parks Committee meeting after learning that the previously approved R Park master plan would require the city to come up with more funding than originally anticipated on a shorter timeline.

Part of the additional cost stems from code requiring the city to provide six restrooms to accommodate crowds the pavilion could draw. The restrooms would need to be built before the pavilion or at the same time, meaning bathrooms would need to go in by 2020 rather than 2021 as originally planned. Public Works estimated the custom pavilion to cost $350,000 and the restrooms $200,000, a higher amount than the city allowed for in its 2020 budget.

The funding issue is further complicated by the city’s effort to take a “pay as you go” approach rather than borrowing for major expenditures.

Mayor Mike Kelly said he believed the pavilion and park design should be “reflective of the value that park has with our community.”

“I don’t agree that prefab is the way to go,” Kelly said.

Councilmember Jen Hill asked if the city could temporarily use porta-potties instead of permanent structures to accommodate the code, allowing the budget to stay more closely on its current timeline.

City administrator Keith Moody said that could be a solution.

Residents question pre-fab structure idea

Seven residents provided citizen comment to oppose the prefab structure during Monday’s meeting, with several questioning whether it would be ethical for the city to change pavilion plans after $50,000 has already been raised by residents supporting the originally approved pavilion.

“To change the pavilion is contrary to donor expectations, resident expectations, and it does raise ethical questions,” said resident Gretchen Davis. Davis also pointed out that the $350,000 expenditure was only about 20 percent of the R Park plan’s total $1.7 million budget. The figure is closer to 18 percent when the $50,000 raised by residents is included, she said.

Councilmember Claudia McCormack said she agreed with several of the citizens’ comments while pointing out that the Roeland Park Aquatic Center improvements were still looming.

Councilmember Tom Madigan said he had a sinking feeling the city would be facing a situation where it was “pitting one against the other” when deciding on pool and R Park upgrades. Madigan also questioned why this cost-savings measure was being discussed so late in the planning process, especially with the Director of Public Works Jose Leon leaving Roeland Park for a new job at Spring Hill.

“I personally do not think we need something prefab at the park,” Madigan said. “There is something about this that just doesn’t feel right.”