Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we voting on a new community center?
Studies show our current recreation facilities need an estimated $20 million worth of repairs and renovations to bring them up to modern standards. The City spent two years exploring this option, seeking input from the community on what types of recreation amenities they desire now and in the future. City staff and consultants also determined construction and operating costs for repairing the facilities. After those two years, a resident-led steering committee recommended to the city council that a new, estimated $30 million community center be built. After careful consideration and input from our residents through public meetings and at city events, the city council determined that doing nothing is not an option and adopted a resolution to place the issue on the ballot for the community to decide.
What are the specific issues with our current facilities?
- HVAC and Air Handler System – inability to heat and cool the building well
- Foundation – Separation of floors from walls, settling throughout the building
- Plumbing – Issues throughout the building and inability to access pipes due to building design
- ADA Accessibility – No access for people with disabilities to primary places in the building, including the Jenks Gym, Locker Rooms, and Restrooms.
- Flooding – Constant failure of sump pumps on the lower level compounded by the building’s location in a flood plain
- Water Damage – Odor and property damage cause by standing water from flooding
- Sewage System – Brittle, breaking pipes and constant odor
- Building design – The building was originally a school and not designed for use as a community center. We are unable to provide the programs residents want in the current configuration of the building.
- ADA Accessibility – Current entry point and locker rooms aren’t accessible for people with disabilities
- Leaking Pool Basin – In 2016, the pool lost 900,000 gallons of water. That’s 600,000 more than would be caused by normal evaporation and discharge.
- Pump House – The pumps and filters need constant repair and upgrades.
- Unfortunately, these are just the issues we know about today. Many of the system and foundation failures that are occurring are located in areas of the facilities that are not easily accessed, and therefore cannot be regularly monitored and proactively addressed.
The City will be hosting behind the scenes tours of both the IBFCC and MAC throughout the summer so you can see these issues for yourself. Check out the full schedule of tours.
Can’t we just update our current facilities?
If the ballot initiative does not pass in September, the IBFCC and MAC will be renovated. In 2014, Larkin Aquatics did a comprehensive study of the aquatic center, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and ADA requirements. At the same time, the City hired Susan Richards Johnson and Associates to complete a similar comprehensive analysis of the community center. That analysis provided detailed solutions that address the continued use of the existing facility. The total estimated cost to renovate both facilities is $16-20 million: $12-15 million for the IBFCC plus an additional $4 million for the pool, including replacing the basin. View copies of the studies.
Renovating the community center and pool is $10 million less than building a new community center – isn’t that option more fiscally responsible for the City?
Voting yes to build a new community center means two things: taking out $24 million in bonds AND imposing a quarter-percent sales tax to help make the payment on the bonds. The additional revenue from the sales tax decreases the bond payment amount that the City has to cover from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) fund. If the ballot initiative fails and the City has to renovate these facilities, there is no new revenue source so the entire amount will have to come from the CIP fund. This means the City would actually pay $400,000 more per year from the CIP fund if the facilities have to be renovated instead of building new.
|Annual Debt Service|| Build New
| Annual Debt Service (10-Year Bond)
|| $2.8 million
|| $1.1 million
| Annual Revenue from Sales Tax (10-Year Sales Tax)
|| ($2.1 million)
| Total Estimated Annual Funding from CIP (during 10-year bond period)
|| $1.1 million
Won’t a new community center cost more to operate?
Yes it will, but the new amenities and programs offered there will also bring in more revenue. As part of the exploration process, the steering committee worked with City staff and a team of consultants to do a business plan. This process revealed that the current gap between expenses and revenue for the IBFCC and MAC is about $720,000, which the City subsidizes through the general fund. If a new community center is built, the projected gap between revenue and expenses (using very conservative revenue projections) is estimated to be about $650,000. This means the City’s annual subsidy will drop by about $70,000 every year. View the business plan.
Will a new quarter-percent sales tax hurt Merriam’s businesses?
Merriam’s current sales tax rate is 9.225% and the addition of a quarter-percent sales tax would make our rate 9.475%. This is still lower than many of our neighboring communities. Learn more on this blog post on sales tax.
For quick reference, a quarter-percent sales tax is equivalent to an additional $0.25 for every $100 you spend.
Will the City still need to issue bonds to renovate if this issue doesn’t pass?
A team of city staff, consultants, steering committee members, and the city council have been considering the future of our recreation facilities for more than four years. And much like you do with your own finances, we have been putting money aside every year in our CIP knowing that something must be done with our current facilities. The City currently has $6 million available to use to start this project – whether the voters approve a new community center or if the IBFCC and MAC are renovated. The current cost estimate to renovate is $20 million. That means the City will have to come up with $14 million to makes the necessary repairs and upgrades to these facilities. One way that the City has explored doing that is to issue maintenance and repair bonds, which do not require voter approval.
Would membership rates for the community center and pool increase if a new facility is built?
The new community center contemplated as part of the Build New option would offer considerably more amenities than our current community center and aquatic center, including: an indoor pool with lap lanes and leisure pool; an outdoor pool with spray pad, lap lanes, and leisure pool; party room; indoor walking track; full size gym; fitness center and aerobic room; art gallery and senior lounge; classrooms and meeting space; and child watch.
As part of the study, a business plan and pro-forma were completed for the Build New option and the following initial rate structure was proposed:
Family Membership Proposed Rates
|Current Membership Rate at IBFCC + MAC||$465||$38.75|
|Membership Rate at New Facility||$540||$45.00|
Individual Membership Proposed Rates
|Current Membership Rate at IBFCC + MAC||$370||$30.83|
|Membership Rate at New Facility||$360||$30.00|
A full rate structure for a new community center still needs to be developed. It is a priority for the City to keep this facility affordable and accessible for all members of our community, and any rate structure would need to be approved by the City Council before being implemented.
What would happen to the Irene B. French Community Center if a new community center is built?
The location of the IBFCC is an important asset to our community, not just because of its historical significance, but also because of its key location in downtown Merriam. Several ideas, such as a new amphitheater or a destination playground have already been discussed, but if voters approve a new community center, the City plans to go through a process with significant community input to identify the best use for the current site and determine how to honor its history while making it an asset for future generations as well.
Has there been any consideration of consolidating Merriam's parks and recreation services with those of surrounding communities?
Merriam is a community that was built on parks and recreation – from Merriam Park which drew more than 20,000 visitors per day in the early 1900s to the creation of our City Parks and Recreation department more than 30 years ago. Citizen surveys consistently tell us that the parks and recreation amenities in our community are a key reason that people choose to call Merriam home, and surveys that were conducted as part of this study reinforced that recreation facilities are a priority – 91% said it was important for Merriam to continue supporting a community Center and 88% said it was important for Merriam to continue to support a pool.
The City has, however, had conversations with our neighboring communities about opportunities to partner and the feedback has been consistent – while Merriam residents are welcome to join nearby community centers at the non-resident rate, no other facility has the capacity to accommodate any type of consolidation of services.
Based on these factors, the City Council has made it clear that the City will continue to support our Parks and Recreation Department and the programs and facilities it operates.
If you have other questions, we’d love to hear from you. Please email Meredith Hauck, assistant city administrator for more information.