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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Time has come to make decision, commissioners say

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  • Newton City Commissioners agreed the time has come to make a decision about the future of the city’s Recreation Center and what the city’s spending priorities should be. Commissioners have been meeting with Newton Recreation Commission representatives and discussing what to do about the aging Recreation Center facility. “I think the longer the City Commission sits back and waits for a ‘magical answer’ ... we’re not doing our job of exercising leadership around an important community issue,” Mayor Racquel Thiesen said at the Tuesday night commission meeting. “... Sometimes, you just have to act.” Commissioner Jim Nickel presented several ideas at Tuesday’s commission meeting for how to approach the Recreation Center issue. His ideas included different repair and funding options. Some could possibly include a mill levy increase. 1) Repair the existing Rec Center in phases; the first phase will include renovating the therapy pool and locker rooms, new gym floor and concrete repair, new gym lights, basement renovation and second floor renovation, and upgrading the existing building exterior. Project cost is approximately $1.1 million but can be accomplished without a tax increase. The Newton Recreation Center would contribute $700,000, and the city would loan the NRC $400,000 from its reserves, with the NRC paying back the loan to the city. 2) Renovation and expansion of the existing facility. Project cost is $4.3 million. 3) A more extensive renovation and addition to the existing facility. The project cost is approximately $10 million. 4) Renovation and expansion of the existing facility in conjunction with a Newton YMCA. The YMCA will invest $10 million into their facility, with an additional $5 million raised locally. The city would invest $10 million, with $4 million going toward various Newton Rec Commission facility improvements, $1 million toward general infrastructure development, and $5 million toward an outdoor pool facility located at the YMCA. Nickel said while considering these options, the commission also needs to think about what the city’s spending priorities should be as a whole. Other facilities needing an upgrade include the police station and the library. “We have to decide what we can afford to do, what we can’t afford to do,” Nickel said. City commissioners decided to meet for a work session at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 to discuss the options that have been presented, and then make a choice about the Rec Center’s future. 
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