Shawnee County Parks and Recreation will devote nearly $300,000 to maintenance projects that previously have been deferred to save money, including a $150,000 improvement to trails at Lake Shawnee
The county commission Thursday approved a preliminary budget of $287,59.90 for seven projects across the county parks system. The bulk of those funds — $225,00 — will come from a the parks and recreation department’s operating budget. The move comes after department director John Knight outlined the need to tackle deferred maintenance in the 2017 budget.
“We’re beginning to attack a huge project,” he said.
The project includes:
- Repair to the family slide at the Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center.
- Updating the GIS aerials of the West Lawn Memorial Gardens.
- Overlay 2,100 feet of the trail around the arboretum at Lake Shawnee.
- Apply a top-level dressing to improve playability at the Shawnee North Community Park soccer field.
- Cleanup Shunga Glen Park.
- Remove and replace a chain-link fence at Ward-Meade Park with a black steel picket fence.
- Replacing software used to track park reservations.
Improving the trails around the arboretum at Lake Shawnee will likely be the most costly project at an estimated $153,000. Software used to track park and campground reservations, registration and sales, called RAL, could cost more than $100,000, but the other projects are all expected to be under $10,000.
This is the first time parks and recreation has transferred money from the general operating budget for deferred maintenance projects. The commission will approve the projects individually once bids are returned.
The commission also approved soliciting price proposals for concrete cart paths for the back nine holes at the Cypress Ridge Golf course, but commissioner expressed concern about funding the project, which could cost upwards of $700,000.
Since the county took over operation of the golf course from the city in 2011, Cypress Ridge has seen a sharp increase in rounds of golf played. In 2012, rounds increased from about 18,000 to 23,164 and has since grown to just over 29,600 rounds. Playing has hit a plateau in 2015 and 2016, though, and Knight attributed that to weather and the lack of solid cart paths on the back half of the course.
“If it rains on a Friday, it’s still too wet on a Saturday to put people out on carts,” he said.
The course looses between $15,000 and $20,000 in revenue per year because of the lack of concrete paths, according to a parks department estimate.
All three commissioners, Bob Arher, Kevin Cook and Shelly Buhler, expressed concern about how the project would be funded. In 2014, operations for the Cypress Ridge and Lake Shawnee courses were moved out of the general fund so they could be supported entirely for their own revenue. Knight’s proposal includes funding the paths through increased fees, partnerships, donations, advertising, grants and an endowment fund. Using building maintenance funds is another possibility.
“We could be taking money from community centers or deferred maintenance,” Cook said. “Our community centers overall needs a lot of love and attention.”
Also at the meeting, JoAnn Peavler raised concerns about the city of Topeka’s neighborhood improvement districts. Before 2012 Peavler’s Belmont neighborhood, a low income enclave of East Topeka north of Payless Shoes, was one Topeka’s neighborhood improvement associations, she said. NIAs receive tax incentives and other financial programs designed to curb blight and improve the neighborhood.
Last week Peavler encouraged the city council to to send a proposal to renew the NIA program to a committee for deeper discussion. Peavler has been critical of recent revitalization efforts in the city because, she said, they focus too strongly on retail and commercial development. She raised the issue with the county commission because it could impact property taxes across the county.
“If we continue to erode or neighborhood revitalization down to what I call corporate welfare, all our citizens will be negatively impacted,” she said.
The commission didn’t discuss Peavler’s remarks.