Raymore council members digest community center survey results

bbashioum@demo-mo.comAugust 29, 2014 

Raymore council members are still at odds about what an indoor recreational civic center should look like within their community.

“I don’t think any of us are saying that we need to write it off,” Ward 2 Councilman Ryan Wescoat said at the council meeting Aug. 18. “I think it’s time to look at the scope of what we want to do.”

More than eight years ago, the city conducted a survey that showed the lack of an indoor community center was the second biggest concern among its residents behind street issues.

The scope of that project – whether it’s a large exercise facility or simply a meeting place to serve as a spot for members of the community to gather – is still hanging in the air.

“What we had in mind was just a small meeting place, but it seems people are having ideas of gymnasiums and other things like that,” Ward 4 Councilwoman Charlene Hubach said. “This is not the right way to go. We’ve got streets that need to be repaired ”

The City Council decided in February to use $28,750 in park funds to pay for a citizen survey and market analysis that could determine if residents would support building a community center.

The results are now in, and were presented to the council during the meeting.

ETC Institute of Olathe, Kan., conducted the study, which included mailing a four-page survey to a random sampling households in Raymore.

Of the 2,000 residences that received the survey, 581 were completed and returned.

Among the major findings, 46 percent of the households surveyed currently use facilities in other communities and another 22 percent use private fitness clubs.

Likewise, the survey reported that 65 percent said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their options for indoor programming space, compared to 35 percent who are only somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Only 38 percent of survey responders feel that operating a new civic center should be paid for by fees from users should pay the majority of costs, and that taxes should cover the remaining costs.

“The No. 1 thing we need is meeting space,” Ward 4 Councilwoman Sonja Abdelgawad said. “I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that a tax will fail miserably based on my interpretation of the statistics. However, I know it will probably be a challenge to get the votes. But I don’t think it’s impossible.”

In the survey, only 39 percent of respondents were very supportive of the city issuing bonds to develop and operate the proposed facility, even if the bonds would not increase property taxes.

Hubach said she doesn’t believe the city can afford to build, let alone compete with, something like Belton’s High Blue Wellness Center.

“I think we should just stop it right now and not waste any more time on it and go onto something else,” Hubach said. “You’re going to find out that your labor costs are going to be more than what you really realize. Once you get the building, you’re stuck with it.”

Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey Stevens agreed.

“I would rather see the money used for something like roads, as well,” he said.

Despite some opposition, acting City Administrator Jim Feuerborn and council members agreed to continue the discussion, and to look at ideas for Raymore to complement, or differ from, their competitors, while potentially staying within about a $10 million budget that wouldn’t raise taxes.

The City Council has directed staff to enter into negotiations with SLS Architecture to complete a scope of services on a scaled-back project and to determine a good spot for a facility to be built.

“It may seem like without having anything on the ground or a drawing on a piece of paper, that nothing is there, but there is. It’s been a long process, and a lot of very good meetings, conversations on this,” Feuerborn said. “Sometimes it just takes awhile for a good stew to cook, and that’s kind of where we’re at.”

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