Leavenworth city commissioners toured the Riverfront Community Center Wednesday, looking at problems with the building's stonework that architects say will cost millions of dollars to repair.
Commissioners discussed options for moving forward, including the possibility of a citywide sales tax increase. But no decisions were made during the special meeting.
Mayor Larry Dedeke said commissioners probably will need to discuss the issue several more times.
Commissioners met Wednesday with Vance Kelley and Julia Manglitz of Treanor Architects. The firm has studied the stonework of the community center. The building, which was built in 1888, originally was a train depot.
Commissioners previously had been given an estimate of $6 million to fix problems with the original building's stonework. Vance, who is Treanor's principal in charge of historic preservation, said Wednesday that the architects came up with a revised estimate of $4.2 million after talking with masons.
This estimate is for masonry issues only and doesn't address other issues with the building including repairs to a front walkway.
Kelley and Manglitz, who is the project manager, led commissioners on the tour of the community center, pointing out areas where sandstone from the original building has deteriorated.
"It is a structural system," Kelley said of the stonework. "It's not just a veneer."
Manglitz said the sandstone that was used for the building, which supposedly came from Tonganoxie, is no longer commercially available or used.
The architects said there is a suitable sandstone available that can be used for the repairs.
"The new material is a more durable sandstone," Kelley said.
Kelley said the architects looked at alternative materials including patch materials but are not recommending they be used.
During the meeting, Commissioner Davis Moulden asked Mike McDonald, director of public works for the city, if the Riverfront Community Center is structurally sound.
"It is today," McDonald said.
When discussing the cost of repairs, Dedeke suggested an additional 20 percent should be added to address the unknown problems that may exist.
Commissioner Mark Preisinger said the commissioners have to decide what to do because the city doesn't have the money to pay for the project. He asked if commissioners should propose a city sales tax increase, which would have to be approved by voters.
He said a half cent sales tax would generate about $1.7 million per year. He said he used the half cent sales tax figure only as an example.
It was noted the city previously was awarded a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help pay for the stonework replacement. But that grant was awarded in 2010 and based on repair costs that were estimated at the time to be about $1 million.
Commissioners also were told the city also could be awarded tax credits of up to 25 percent to help pay for the project.
Page 2 of 2 - City Manager Scott Miller expressed concern that Kansas lawmakers may extend a statewide sales tax that is set to sunset, and this could hurt the chances of a citywide sales tax being passed.
Commissioners discussed possibly doing the project in phases.
Even if the project were to be done in phases, Preisinger said he would want to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase only one time.
"I think it should go for one vote and one vote only," he said.
Miller asked what would happen if a sales tax referendum was defeated.
Preisinger said part of the education process would have to include information about the city looking at alternatives if the sales tax is defeated.
He said the city has to have community center, and it would cost money to build a new facility.
"It's a lot of money whichever way you go," he said.
Dedeke noted that a countywide sales tax is set to expire in a few years. And local voters could be hit up twice to approve sales tax proposals.