Prairie Village council candidates on the issues: Idea of new community center and library branch partnership project

Prairie Village is exploring the possibility of a joint project to bring new facilities to the city on the site of the current YMCA building.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Prairie Village.

Today, we begin publishing the candidates’ responses. The first question was as follows:

The city is currently working with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City and the Johnson County Library to study the feasibility of a community center-and-library campus project, including what features such facilities might include and how much a project would cost taxpayers. What are your views on the prospect of a multi-party project to bring updated community center and library to Prairie Village?

City Council Ward 2

Inga Selders

I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our community to create a true city center campus here in Prairie Village. Already, we have our city hall, police and fire departments, city pool, and Harmon Park all located within this block.

Not only do we have the support of the Johnson County Library and the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, there have also been several healthcare groups that have shown interest in investing in a possible physical therapy center within this facility. There are currently more than 1700 people who are members of the Paul Henson YMCA. I imagine a majority of these members would transfer their membership over to a new community center, which is a significant membership base, starting from day one.

From the input that I have heard, an overwhelming majority of PV residents want to see this become a reality. I am very optimistic about the prospect of this project moving forward. I look forward to hearing the results of the feasibility study as well as further input from members of our community.

At the end of the day, I believe that it must be up to residents to decide if this project should move forward, but at this moment in time I am fully supportive in seeing this project become a reality.

Serena Schermoly (incumbent)

Did not respond.

City Council Ward 3

Bonnie Limbird

As the parent of an 8th-grader, who is right in the midst of that need to be independent but with no drivers license, I am VERY excited for the prospect of this partnership.

The idea of a community activity HUB with the outdoor pool, library, meeting/study rooms, park, and indoor courts, track, gym, and fitness spaces in a safe location near the police department AND the fire department is an exciting one. If approved, by the time it’s built, my daughter will probably be practically in college, but I’m thinking of the families with younger kiddos today who will be able to enjoy that facility in a few years. Not to mention for our growing senior population!

Both parties, the JoCo Library and the Y, are very motivated partners due to the failing conditions and maintenance costs of their current facilities. I have been a JoCo Library volunteer for the last 15 years, including as a Friends Board Member, and the Corinth Branch has been on the list for rebuild since at least back then! As for the partnership between the library, Y, and the City, I would fully expect there to be shared cost efficiencies to be found in the infrastructure, parking, design, operations, and security of the new facility.

My 20 years of experience in the architecture, design, and construction industry makes me uniquely qualified to be an advocate for a transparent and well-communicated Community/Civic Center study process to make sure residents are engaged and heard before final decisions (design, amenities, programs, cost) are made and voted on. And my environmental and accessibility design certifications and experience will ensure that these important issues are considered integrally to all other aspects of the design for a fully inclusive, sustainable, and functional facility.

If it makes sense financially for the land acquisition, design, construction, maintenance and operations, and if residents are fully informed and on board for the costs (including membership costs), then I’m all for a multi-party Community/Civic Center for Prairie Village.

Lauren Wolf

I am excited about the possibilities for this project, and I commend the Council for taking a deliberate approach to an investment of this scale. The partnership between the City, the YMCA, and the Library has the potential to provide one-of-a-kind programs by leveraging the respective strengths of those organizations. As someone who grew up with YMCA programing and easy access to a library, I know firsthand the value of having these top-notch resources in our community. The study the Council commissioned will provide great insight regarding what amenities residents want and the costs of the project. Ultimately, the details of the project will determine whether this is something that makes sense for PV.

Until we know what the residents want, here are some key considerations from my perspective. First, the community center needs to be more than just a gym and should provide amenities that serve the entire community. This means we should make sure any proposal includes meeting spaces for local groups, game nights, and other gatherings. We should also include or expand many of the programs and classes that the YMCA and the Library already do so well, especially for children and seniors. Second, we need to be serious about keeping the costs to taxpayers in check. We need to understand what residents would be asked to pay, what non-residents would be asked to pay, what financing is needed, and how the community center might allow the City to save money in other areas. Finally, we need to understand how the three-way partnership would be managed. If PV will ultimately be responsible for the bulk of the cost, we need to ensure residents continue to have input as needs and goals change in the future.

City Council Ward 5

Courtney McFadden (incumbent)

The idea of a new community center with partnerships including the YMCA, the Johnson County Library and other private partners certainly sounds promising, however it is important that we first allow for the process to continue before making decisions. Our Mayor, staff, ad hoc committee and the current city council have laid out a path forward which first starts with research into the feasibility. Through this survey on feasibility, Prairie Village will find out if the community center will not only be viable in this area, but also how much the facility would cost versus how much our citizens are willing to pay for the facility. Without the baseline information we look to gain from the feasibility study it is absolutely impossible to even start the next steps in the community center process. In my opinion the next steps and possibly most import discussions, would then begin around budgeting, what role the city would play in the partnership, staff time, etc. In an effort to make sure I am informed and up to date on this project I have attended every city council meeting where we have discussed this matter and also have attended every tour that our staff has organized. All of my experience will be essential as Ward 5 looks to who can represent them in this matter as the community center project progresses.

David Morrison

Did not respond.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item number two:

In recent years, property values in Prairie Village have increased substantially, meaning property tax revenues have gone up as well. Given the increased property tax revenues the city has seen, the city’s finance committee recommended a slight mill levy reduction during this year’s budgeting process. The council ultimately rejected that recommendation, and instead held the property tax rate steady. Do you agree with the decision not to lower the property tax rate? Why or why not?