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Commission favors sales tax ballot measure for recreational upgrades

By Bryan Richardson

The Manhattan City Commission advised city officials to prepare a sales tax ballot question for $27.5 million worth of Parks and Recreation Department projects on Tuesday.

However, the commission still has to decide when to put the measure to voters.

The city hired Bruce McMillan Architects to work on designs for indoor recreation space at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools and CiCo Park improvements, which include work on the ballfields, tennis courts and trails.

Commissioners reached a consensus on their preferred upgrades for CiCo Park at Tuesday’s work session.

In order to fund these projects, city officials are eyeing a quarter-cent sales tax.

This year, the city can choose to end its current quarter-cent “quality of life” sales tax, which goes toward the city’s pools and Sunset Zoo. Voters approved the tax in 2009. If the commission ends the tax early, it could seek a renewal vote in November. The commission can also let the tax end in 2019, its current sunset date.

Commissioner Wynn Butler advocated for a November ballot question, saying he wanted to place sales tax renewal on the ballot as soon as possible.

“If you delay it until the current one goes away, and then people don’t vote for it, you’ve wasted all this time in planning,” he said.

Mayor Usha Reddi said the city should consider the risk of the question not passing before ending the tax early.

“We’ve done ballot initiative before when we did want the indoor pool,” she said. “The community said one thing and voted differently once they came
there.” Despite being cautious, Reddi said she didn’t see anything among the projects that the public wouldn’t support.

If approved by the voters, officials estimate the tax would raise $27.5 million. City officials consider this a conservative estimate based on the current performance of the sales tax. Commissioners also advised city officials of their preferred CiCo Park concept, which places the baseball fields facing to the east toward Wreath Avenue.

The $8.5 million CiCo Park project would replace the existing ball field quad with two regulation baseball fields and two regulation softball fields.

In the tennis court area, the three current courts would be replaced with eight new courts. There would also be space for four more tennis courts.

The project would also include increased stormwater detention and work on trails and parking near the tennis courts and ballfields.

These projects are a part of the study on improving Parks and Recreation facilities that city officials expect will be completed by April.

The study will include finalized information on the indoor facilities at the Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools and Douglass Park.

The middle schools will each have four multi-use, regulation- size courts, elevated walking tracks and support spaces and cost an estimated $8.5 million.

The Southeast Neighborhood Recreation Center, the third indoor recreation site identified by the study, will have a different funding mechanism, pending federal approval. With approval, the city will receive a $3.3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the facility. The facility would have a full-size, multi use court, two non-regulation cross courts, an interior walking track and support spaces.

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