Citizens and commissioners battle over $10 million recreation center budget

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A $10 million recreation center is causing controversy.

Shawnee County commissioners are in budget talks and while some want a new facility for local families to use, others say it’s not the right use of tax dollars.

The county’s Midwest Health Aquatic Center at 21st Street and Urish Road has been providing fun for families for years.

But there are an additional 60 acres of land on the property that sits empty.

“We own it, we need to use it,” Commissioner Bob Archer said.

The county is looking to expand this pool space into a multi-generational recreation center saying the southwest quadrant of Shawnee County only has one recreation center.

“There is what I like to call a parks and recreation desert in the southwest part of Shawnee County,” Archer said.

But members of the parks and recreation advisory board are fighting commissioners saying there are more pressing needs for the money.

“I don’t know of a department that has more impact on the citizens of this community,” Joseph Ledbetter, a member of the committee, said.

He did add that he is seeing some issues get fixed.

“I talk to a lot people that are happy with some of it unhappy with restrooms that aren’t being maintained, fountains, broken bike trails,” Ledbetter said.

They say they’d like to see the money spread out more efficiently.

“Family park could have a walking trail, and probably some amenities and pickle parks, for probably two million dollars,” Ledbetter said. “It doesn’t have to be a recreation center, recreation centers are usually designed for very poor areas.”

They’re also suggesting the county look at existing buildings for the recreation center.

“But have you looked at the opportunity or idea of putting it over West Ridge?” Ledbetter said. “Maybe looking at the Sears building that’s for sale? There are other ideas that are available to a community besides building something from the ground floor up.”

The full budget plans will be determined by the end of July.

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