Frequently Asked Questions
Recreational Facilities FAQ(Updated 12/21/16)
What is all this I hear about our recreational facilities?
The community center and aquatic center are at the end of their useful lives, and the cost of maintenance and repair are becoming unsustainable. Instead of perpetuating the use of expensive Band-Aids to fix problems, the city council chose a proactive and thoughtful process to explore several possible solutions. Remember, the pool is over 30-years-old and sections of the community center are over 100-years-old!
What’s wrong with the current facilities?
We’ve gotten a lot of use out of these facilities, but constant, expensive and unbudgeted repairs to their systems and structures continue to increase. Additionally, neither facility meets Federal ADA requirements or current life-safety and building code requirements. To achieve compliance in these areas, many of the needed updates trigger a cascade of repairs to other outdated systems, which increases costs and makes updates more difficult and expensive. It is also useful to know the current community center was not built for use as a community center, and its layout was not designed or intended for its current use. Another issue is the community center is situated in the floodplain, so the basement is below the water table and regularly floods.
Can’t we update our current facilities?
Absolutely — that is an option. We have a good understanding of what updating our current facilities would cost. In 2014, Larkin Aquatics did a comprehensive study of the aquatic center, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and ADA requirements. Their detailed report indicated needed updates to the aquatic center will range between $600,000-$900,000 plus an eventual $3,500,000 to replace the basin. 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 with costs ranging from $6,000,000-$10,000,000.
So why are we talking about new facilities?
When contemplating the high costs of updating the existing facilities, it became financially prudent to ask, “What would a new facility cost?” There was also a stark realization that spending all that money to update our facilities would still leave the city with a 30-year-old pool and 100-year-old community center. Firsthand experience dictates that in another 30 years it will probably be easier and less expensive to maintain a 30-year-old facility than to maintain 60-year-old and 130-year-old facilities. At that point, the concern quickly became that the cost of keeping the existing facilities, even if updated, might actually cost taxpayers more over the next 30-40 years than building something new that (1) meets the needs of our current and future community, (2) is more appropriately sized, and (3) utilizes current building codes, modern materials and modern systems. We needed more details to make an informed decision.
Where are we now in the process?(Updated 12/21/16)
A steering committee of Merriam residents was appointed to work with Pros Consulting to determine what a new facility would look like that appropriately meets the needs of the community. That process — to date — involved collecting public input via surveys and public meetings; developing a market study, business plan and financial analysis. In addition, the public was given the opportunity to provide feedback on three “new” facility concepts at a public meeting on Dec. 13. The first concept was referred to as “The Full Meal Deal” and included both indoor and outdoor aquatics amenities. The other two concepts varied based on how aquatic features would be represented. Consultants are now reviewing feedback from that meeting to help formulate the final Facilities Master Plan recommendation they will present to Merriam City Council at its regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 9, 2017.
What will a new facility cost?(Updated 12/21/16)
Three concept designs were created based on public input, survey findings and other public engagement activities. The current estimated range to build these concepts is between $24 - $29 million. In addition, a pro forma was completed to anticipate and plan for operational costs. In each plan, the subsidized operational costs would be less than the current subsidized costs related to operating the existing facilities. Another pro forma with more detailed information will be created based on the concept that received the most support at the Dec. 13 public meeting. The final pro forma will further demonstrate how operation costs for the final “build new” option will meet or surpass projections. It is recommended that if the decision is to “build new,” that the facility should be designed in scope and size to operate within an appropriate level of funding on an annual basis.
What happens after the final Facilities Master Plan is presented to city council on Jan. 9, 2017?(Updated 12/21/16)
Merriam City Council will vote to acknowledge receipt of the final plan and the recommendation of the steering committee on Jan. 9. The city council’s acknowledgement will recognize completion of deliverables that were outlined at the beginning of the process — it will not bind the city to any one specific option — it only provides the required details needed to begin a larger conversation about the future of our recreation facilities.
When will a decision be made on the facilities?
As with all major capital projects, it is anticipated the preferred solution will be discussed in public meetings as part of the 5-year capital improvement project budget. These discussions will begin in March 2017.
If the city chooses to build new, how will those improvements be financed?(Updated 12/21/16)
If the “build new” option is chosen, staff recommends using a ¼-cent sales tax to finance the project. Bond payment on a $25 million project is estimated to be $2 million over 20 years. There are two ¼-cent sales tax options to consider. Currently, there is already a ¼-cent sales tax dedicated for streets that is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. It is possible to reclassify the existing tax when it renews, to include parks projects. If the city can’t wait until the expiration date of the existing sales tax, it could potentially secure an additional ¼-cent sales tax, to have concurrent taxes until 2020. This would allow the first tax to expire without renewal.
If a new tax is added, what will the impact be to the residents of Merriam?(Updated 12/21/16)
Based on Merriam’s economy, an annual ¼-cent sales tax would generate approximately $2 million. When calculating the cost for each resident, the city’s “pull factor” must be a significant consideration. This measures how well a community supports itself and how it benefits from business transactions occurring between local businesses and people who live in communities outside of Merriam (but pay sales tax here). For example, a “pull factor” of 1 indicates a healthy community that can support itself. Merriam has a pull factor of 4.67, which is the highest in the State of Kansas. This means that for every dollar of sales tax collected, a Merriam resident pays less than 20 cents! Even more, when the pull factor is calculated, Merriam residents pay approximately $360,000 of the $2 million generated by the ¼-cent sales tax each year. Another way of looking at it is that residents are only impacted by $32/year, which is the equivalent of purchasing one Happy Meal per month!
Will there be a vote if bonds are included in the funding strategy?
If funding involves issuing bonds or raising property and/or sales taxes, a public vote is recommended (and likely required by law).
If the build new option is pursued requiring a vote for bonds and sales tax, what happens if one of the ballot measures pass and the other does not?(Updated 12/21/16)
This will be a question posed to the bond council when the ballot language is drafted. If a sales tax were to pass but the question of whether to issue bonds for a new facility fails, the language articulating what the sales tax can fund would be critical.
Again, doing nothing with the current facilities is not an option. If the vote to build a new facility fails, renovation of the existing facility would need to occur.
Has there been any consideration of consolidating Merriam’s parks and recreation services with those of surrounding communities?(Updated 12/21/16)
Because Merriam has offered parks and recreation services for more than 30 years, it is difficult to just “quit the business.” Past citizen surveys consistently rank parks and recreation as top services that residents are highly satisfied with, and many families indicate that the availability of these amenities even brought them to town in the first place (factoring highly in reasons for raising a family and living in Merriam right up there with high quality schools and location). Although pursing a partnership with neighboring cities is an option, there would be a loss of community and identity for Merriam residents that would be detrimental to the future of our city. Programs and events that are part of our proud tradition also may not continue if these services are consolidated with another municipality’s.
Where can I get more information about this issue?