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Surprise!  It’s “what the people wanted”!
Posted: 28 December 2013 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I just read the article about the City Commission’s tax-funding decision on the City Pool.

We’ll be paying about a million dollars ever four years, for a state-of-the-art practice/meet facility of a private swim club, which pays next to diddly for free reign over the facility.

This is ‘the will of the people”, according to all of the commissioners.

“Conservative” seems to be about what your definition of “is” is…

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Posted: 01 January 2014 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Marlin’s use the pool, very early in the morning when no one else cares to use the pool facility.  Should they pay a fee?  Maybe, that is an issue that was not discussed.  It can of course be put on the agenda for both the parks advisory board and the commission.  Concerns about the use of the pool by the Marlins can also be emailed to the commission and city staff.  Public comment on the topic is always welcome at any of the commission meetings. 

The issue at hand was making the pools affordable for the majority of folks in the city.  That was accomplished by the recommendations of the Parks and recreation advisory board.  The voters did pass the bond to improve the pools.  It only makes sense that they should actually be able to use them.  What is not resolved yet is the length of time the pools will stay open.  Clearly the pools are not a private social club for the Marlin’s and they should not get priority of use. 

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Posted: 01 January 2014 10:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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“Should they pay a fee?”  How many years has that new pool been in operation?  Why isn’t that a question a commissioner would ask every day the pool loses money?

Doesn’t it close for Marlin meets?  Aren’t the practices reserved for Marlins only?  Yes?

Clearly, the pool functions as a private facility for the swim team,

You’ll get no argument from anyone that the public should be able to use the public pool.  The argument is whether tax payers should pick up the slack while it is functioning as a private practice and meet facility for a private swim club.

I’ve emailed the commission before about other things.  It’s a black hole, no matter what goes in, nothing comes back.  Are you suggesting that this forum isn’t the place to ask these questions?

The pool closes mid-august?  Hottest month of the year?

Clearly, not a great deal of thought has gone into this… “tack it on to the property taxes” was the best this commission could come up with?  It’s a popular public facility.  Clearly, the city should be charging everyone who uses it.

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Posted: 02 January 2014 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Randall, as you know, this has been one of my longtime pet peeves.  No one on this City Commisson… or the previous one… want to even mention this “political hot potato” of The Marlins swimming for free.  Now, we even have one Commissioner who will spend significant time behind the dais, telling how he and his kids all were members of The Marlins and what a great club it is for the social elite.  Some time ago, it appeared there was an agreement between the City and The Marlins that they would provide “in kind” life guard duties so the pools could remain open longer.  I can’t get any straight answers from any commissioners, but it seems that never happened.  The pool still closes during the time when it could be attracting a significant number of users.

Some of the questions this commission should be asking…. and wont’... are 1.) The Marlins pay KSU for use of the Natatorium.  Why should they not pay similar use fees to the City? 2.) Just how many of The Marlins actually live in Manhattan and are paying property tsx in Manhattan?  Some live in Timber Creek, Wamego, etc.  Why should the Manhattan property owners pay additional property tax so children of the elite can swim free… even when those kids don’t live here?  3.)  How many other PRIVATE groups use City facilities for free?  Churches are charged for swim partys.  Family get togethers are charged.  Neighborhood swim parties… Whenever a private group wants to use the pools, they pay a fee… except The Marlins.  Just wondering… Do PRIVATE traveling basketball teams pay for use of City gyms?  Do PRIVATE traveling baseball teams pay for use of City diamonds?  Maybe so.  If so, I do believe the taxpayer should be allowed to know how many of the participants they are subsidizing are paying property tax in Manhattan.

Let’s take it a little further.  Do PRIVATE groups pay a fee for use of the Depot?  What about the Discovery Center?  If a PRIVATE group wants to use a meeting room at the DC, don’t they pay a fee?  Or, does it depend on what group it is and how “connected” members of the group are?

Again, not a single sitting commissioner has the spine to stand up and demand the City be compensated for use of the pool by a PRIVATE entity… even when the facility is losing loads of money.  It’s just another one of those things in Manhattan where the citizens at large pay the bill so the elite can play.

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Posted: 02 January 2014 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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People simply “forgot” about the INDOOR facility they wanted to build with our tax dollars, on a hillside in Cico… for the Marlins.

When that failed, they simply designed and built the city pool to fit the Marlin’s needs.. then handed them the key and the scheduling book.

See, it’s not that “conservatives” don’t like spending tax money on quality of life issues.  That’s just red meat for the rubes.

They just want to make sure that money is spent right ... for the right people, and on the right kind of people.

I’ve lived near neighborhood pools that sold adult passes for morning and evening hours, no staff or lifeguards necessary, for those who swim for a workout.  If the Boy/Girl Scouts sponsored some troop swim lessons, would the city charge them?

Of course they would.

There’s a way to cut this deficit while increasing the hours/days that the pool may serve the public.  If P&R couldn’t, for the life of them, find it, then maybe the city should hire people that could.

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Posted: 02 January 2014 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The entire idea with the Fieldhouse Group of installing a retractable cover… over City Park Pool… was simply an effort to accomodate the elite.  (The entire Fieldhouse Group fiasco is an attempt to force the citizenry at large to pay for a playground for those socially and politically connected.)  As far as “conservatives” wanting to lower taxes and cut government… HOGWASH!!!  Three County Commissioners ran on the platform of being fiscal conservatives.  None… NONE of the three have carried through on that promise.  There is currently an effort underway to unseat each and every one of them.  They are setting up a Public Building Commission so money can be spent and taxes raised without taking construction issues to the voters.  They are going to toss money at the pathetic idea of a visitors center at I-70 and 177.  The location is not even in Riley County. There is no water available to the location.  The thought process is that, once the Chamber begins building they are committed and we taxpayers can shell out another $4 million to $7 million to get water lines through the rock and to the center.  It goes on and on and on….

We have NO… NOT ONE fiscal conservative on the City Commission.  They make a big scene about cutting social service support by a few dollars then turn around and hand $2 million to the Discovery Center for new exhibits.  They make a big scene about cutting two or three positions with Parks & Rec, then turn around and shove a couple hundred thousand/year of swimming pool expenses down the taxpayers throats.  This has become laughable. 

The Discovery Center… not making it on its own.  Sacred cow.  Elected officials are told to keep their hands off and their mouths shut… just continue tossing money at it… and they do.  The Chamber of Commerce… still handing them well over $1 million each year to make videos of 50+ year old women jumping on hotel beds.  Elected officials are told to keep their hands off and their mouths shut… just keep tossing money at it… and spend more tax dollars attending Chamber functions in Kansas City.  Parks & Rec… costing us more and more and more.  Elected officials are told to keep their hands off and their mouths shut… just keep tossing money at it… and they do.  This community has been handed over to a “shadow government” that weilds a big stick socially and politically.  Not ONE elected official wants to incur the wrath of that shadow government.  The cowtowing to the elite becomes more evident with each and every commisson meeting.  And, not one commissoner will make waves.

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Posted: 03 January 2014 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Randal and Larry:

I with you on the following points:
The pool needs to be open through Labor Day.  I believe that is the plan for this year.  It includes figuring out how to hire the life guards. 
The practice for the Marlins are in the early AM and as a result do not cause any disruption for anyone.  If the practice closed the pool during the regular hours, I would agree that this is a problem.
Closing the pools for a Marlin meet is not something that should happen on a regular basis.  If it does a fee should be involved.
Making the Marlins pay for the practice was discussed at a meeting last year but did not get any traction.
We did discuss the Marlin’s providing in kind life guard service to keep the pools open longer.  That translated into no action or support.  As a result I would say this idea is dead. 
The forum is a fine place to bring up suggestions.  Emailing them to the commission as a whole for action is better.  I will answer your email and have made an effort to reply to all emails received concerning city issues. 
I have requested that the following two topics be put on the Commission Agenda (that agenda is set by the Mayor and the City Manager):

1. They (The Marlins) use the pool for practice.  What fee should they pay or not pay.
2.  The pool closes for swim meets.  How many this year 2014 and what fee is paid by the Marlin’s.

I disagree that the pool is a private swim club for the Marlins.  That is a bit of a stretch. 

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Posted: 03 January 2014 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It will be interesting to hear the commission wiggle through justifying allowing the Marlins free use of the pool.  Again, my main point is the precedence of a private group utilizing public property… paid for and subsidized by taxpayers… at no cost.  If you do ask the two questions posted, Wynn, could you please add one more to the list?  “We allow The Marlins free use of City Park Pool.  How many other private groups do we allow to use recreational facilities… pools, ball diamonds, etc… at no cost?”

The old excuse of “The practice for the Marlins are in the early AM and as a result do not cause any disruption for anyone” has run its course.  If this is the case, can a local church group or family group schedule the pool for a private function during morning hours at no cost??  Again, why do we give free use to one group and one group only?  The Marlins pay for using the Natatorium at KSU?  They should pay to use City Park Pool.

I see the Commission talked about the Fieldhouse Group plan during your recent retreat.  (I do thank the Commisson for at least holding a retreat here in Manhattan… something the local Chamber doesn’t have the loyalty to the community to do… even though we hand them over $1 million in tax dollars each year!)  So, have political puppet strings been jerked and members of the Commission considering giving in to the Fieldhouse Group?  The reported comments that our recreational facilities are outdated and need attention may be accurate.  However, this commission and previous commissions decided to spend the City into monumental debt on other things.  We recently floated a ballot referendum that gave P&R millions in sales tax dollars for pool renovation and zoo facilities.  Sounds like they want more.  Are we going to go ahead and max out the City’s debt limit by cowtowing to the Fieldhouse Group?

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Posted: 03 January 2014 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Larry:
I agree that the Discovery Center must and should make it on its own.  At present the CVB plus the Star Bonds support the operation.  The DC has not been supported by your property tax bill.  The one item that has morphed into the property tax scene is the quarterly exhibits.  .33 of your mil levy is going to support those exhibits.  I am totally against that concept and believe the cost should be picked up by the CVB.  I will vote in favor of that option.  The Discovery Center exists.  I cannot change that, so my focus is to make certain that the funding for this operation does not come from Property Tax.  I have an issue with the bond and interest fund levy of .33 mils to support the exhibits.  I will push to get that changed.

You always bring up the meager 5% cut to the SSAB funds for 2012.  Those were restored in 2013, the Commission voted 3-2 to increase the funding.  Some of the agencies got a 21% increase.  I will continue to believe that we should support SSAB, but at a specific level.  My issue is not SSAB funding but the agencies and the amount. I think you already know what my proposal is on that topic.

The pools are and always will be subsidized in operation.  If the pools are operated on a cash business basis then only the rich will be able to use the facility.  A high entry price for pool use eliminates attendance by many citizens.  An attempt was set in motion four years ago to have the pools operated as break even.  It was a good idea, I supported the concept, it was in place when I first became a member of the Commission.  But two years of data clearly indicated that it will not work.  In order to break even on the pools a charge of about 15 dollars a day is required.  A private firm in Rogers Arkansas runs a pool almost identical to the one at City Park – they charge $15 a day (I visited that facility).  I have come to the conclusion that the pools are supported by the tax base – property and sales tax – and voted for on a bond issue by the pubic.  For that reason they must be accessible at a reasonable price by the majority of the citizens. Parks and Recreation is a Core City Function – so that covers the pools.  What we need to do is of course manage the facility in a fashion that provides best value.  The restructured fee system will achieve best value, and drive up attendance.  More attendance will provide more revenue.  The lowest subsidy possible without excluding the average person from pool use is the goal.  Without the subsidy then maybe the pool does become a private club for the Marlins.

The Commission voted 3-2 to continue support as usual for the CVB and the Chamber.  I assume the shadow Government comment does refer to the CVB and the Chamber.  Commissioner Jankovich, McCulloh and Reddi did not wish to have the CVB advisory board be answerable to the Commission.  They all believe that the CVB should in fact be able to hold meetings outside of the KOMA requirements. In other words secret closed door meetings are OK.  They believe the system works as currently established.  They also supported continuation of the CVB contract with the minor modification that grants are limited to 5K.  I voted to change the advisory board structure.  My desire was to take the CVB contract money and provide only what was required for the marketing.  I would have preferred 750K in marketing and the remainder in a city CVB fund that could be used by the Commission to say cover the Discovery Center shortfall costs you mentioned earlier.

In the end the CVB contact was 900K or so- the amount requested by the marketers.  Not sure if that is a valid figure as it was provided the night of the meeting.  Bottom line for me was that while my goals of a total restructure of the CVB advisory board and a complete change to the contract failed, we did make a few very small steps toward change.  First the contract was modified so that grants cannot be provided over a 5K amount without commission approval.  Second the CVB board will update the Commission every quarter.  Third at least the CVB did not get the full one million dollars.  It takes three votes for change, and they were not present.  The CVB and the Chamber do provide value and service to the Community.  My interest is to continue that value and service, but with a more accountable CVB board and a more definitive and narrow contract.

I agree fully with the comment on travel.  I will not be attending the Leaders conference in KC this year.  The reason is that I believe the money could be better used on other projects.  I brought that topic up at the Commission Retreat on Thursday.  The Mercury chose not to cover that topic in their published story.   

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Posted: 03 January 2014 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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On the Field House Group:

Larry:  The Mercury report on what took place at the Retreat is to put it mildly bogus.  Much of what was discussed is not included.  Second that which is included is badly misrepresented in regards to intent and content.  I will address the Field House issue.

I brought up the Field House discussion in the context of a meeting I had in Junction City with their CVB and representatives from JC and Geary County.  That group wanted to partner with Fort Riley and Manhattan to bring in traveling teams for baseball, softball and long fields (soccer/football).  Their idea was to do the following:

1.  The project would NOT be funded by sales tax or property tax.
2.  The project would be private funded.
3.  The project was for economic development and for that reason could maybe tap CVB funds and ECO devo funds.
4. The group wanted to hire a private firm to manage the events.  This project was not designed to be government run.
5. It did not include any fieldhouse building or swimming pools.
6. Events would be scheduled as regional events using JC, Manhattan and Fort Riley sports fields.

I like the concept as a ECO DEVO effort – with the major assumption that item 1,2 and 3 are set in concrete.  Funds raised by the group would in fact be used to upgrade JC and Manhattan sports facilities.  Scheduled events would still fall under the current user fee schedules for both localities.  The focus is primarily on baseball.  That is a good deal as it hits the summer months when sales tax revenue is down and hotel occupancy is down.  I think that this concept should be investigated.  It will result in zero tax support (sales or property), it might provide some upgrade of our facilities, it will bring in folks to occupy hotels and spend money – increasing summer tax revenue.  The effort is private and will not require more work from Parks and Recreation.  I do not see any down side in letting the Manhattan and JC CVBs and private groups work on this ECO Devo Effort.

To be clear—.  I personally 100% do not support and will not support the Field House 54 million dollar proposal that was presented to the Commission.  I will support investigation of a cooperative no tax supported eco devo effort between JC and Manhattan to bring in some traveling teams.

What the Commission seemed to agree to at the Retreat was the following:

1.  The JC/Manhattan/Fr partnership for traveling teams should be explored.
2.  The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board should review the Field House report and provide a facilities plan for upgrade.  The upgrades would be recommended as CIP projects – Capital Improvement Projects over the next few years.
3. Gym space basketball courts was the third issue.  We need more basketball courts for indoor activity.  The USD also needs more gym space.  A combined effort in this area needs to be explored.

So what I heard was not at all what the Mercury published. I am not interested in increasing the city debt.  The discussion on that topic was also omitted by the Mercury.  Bottom line is that we can in fact lower the city debt if the Commission will agree to not add any more bonds than it retires.  But again that takes three votes and only two are present.

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Posted: 04 January 2014 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Sheesh!  Had a lengthy rant about the editorial liberties taken by The Mercury when it comes to Chamber initiatives, but deleted it.  No sense in beating a dead horse.  The puppet strings that connect 5th & Poyntz to 5th & Leavenworth/Osage are much too strong to sever.

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Posted: 05 January 2014 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Wynn,

I can’t understand why you can’t grasp this.
The mornings when the Marlins take over the pool IS a time when other citizens want to use the pool Adult Lap Swim season passes could be sold for mornings before opening, and evenings after close.  There are people who swim laps for a workout, especially in the summer.  It’s another layer of season passes, utilizing off hours to generate more income.  What part of this doesn’t make sense to you?

If the Marlins take the pool from 7-9, then Adult Lap Swim should be 9-11:30.  Evenings, Closing to 10.

Passes should be sold for ALL time periods, with Marlins being required to purchase teen or child off-hour season passes.  Coaches too. EVERY Marlin who uses the facility during those hours.

As for the Marlins using it as their private facility, are they not allowed to chose their practice and meet hours?  Isn’t the pool closed for all of those?  Does the city receive reimbursement for these hours?  How much, if any?

Not a stretch at all.  A statement of fact.

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Posted: 05 January 2014 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I am not aware of any group that has asked for or requested the time slot for the Marlin practices.  You say it is a time slot that is wanted, but I do not have any data to support that concept.  I do not think they(The Marlins)  have any competition for the early morning hours.  I could be wrong, but I do not recall ever getting a request from any group that claimed the Marlins were cutting into their time.  The swim meets yes, that cuts into time, I agree.  The practices may not be an issue for anyone that actually uses the pool or wants to use the pool in the AM hours.  As I posted earlier, have asked that this topic be put on the Commission Agenda.  If any groups out there believe that they are being shortchanged in facilities use because of he Swim Team, please advise & make a request to use the facilities to Parks and Recreation.

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Posted: 06 January 2014 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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So, you want adult lap swimmers to form a group?  And that group must want to use the facility during the hours when the Marlins have practice before you’ll consider charging them for a facility that’s losing a million dollars every four years?

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Posted: 06 January 2014 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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One of the weakest excuses/reasons I’ve seen Wynn use to justify a position!  As Randall pointed out, early a.m. could well be utilized by any number of adults swimming laps.  Yet, because they don’t make the request “as a group”, no consideration is given… except asking them to pay higher taxes to make the pool available to the privileged.  It would be interesting if, next season, a number of church groups and family groups requested use of the pool during closed hours.  Wonder if there would be a cost assessed?  Of course!!!!

Randall, this is an issue where the taxpayer will never win.  The pools… and specifically The Marlins… are a sacred cow.  This is a political hot potato.  Jankovich has sermonized from the dais his admiration for The Marlins.  He has touted his own and his kids’ memberships in The Marlins and their participation in The Marlins events.  OTOH, Butler and Matta know Jankovich holds the swing vote on any number of other issues.  McCulloh and Reddi will usually vote as a team.  If Matta/Butler step hard on The Marlins issue, they are fearful that Jankovich will retaliate with votes on other issues.  This is political gamesmanship.  The Marlins will continue to use the facilities until such time other groups who are charged use fees protest en masse.  Even then, I have my doubts if the public will be able to see any costs assessed against The Marlins.  We’ll get another cheap argument such as “The Marlins act as gohphers and get sodas from the concession stand for lifeguards and elected officials who happen to be there swimming and this is payment in kind.”

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Posted: 06 January 2014 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I know a number of people who would use the pool in the early morning hours for lap swimming—many of them within walking distance of City Park.

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