Merriam residents invited to meeting where city officials will present options for aging community center

MERRIAM, Kan. -- To build or not to build that is the question Merriam residents face as their aging community center and city swimming pool are in dire need of improvements.

Residents can get a closer look at several proposals to build both brand new during a meeting Tuesday night. The open house begins at 7 p.m., and a steering committee will present three possible solutions.

The most expensive proposal at nearly $30-million would include an indoor and outdoor pool, or the city could spend $5-to-$6 million less and build either an indoor or outdoor pool.

The current aquatics center sits right next to the IKEA store near Johnson Drive. This is where they would build the new community center and pool.

The current pool is more than 30 years old and leaks water because the pump isn’t working properly. City officials acknowledge they could replace the pump for a lot less money than building new, but the community center is more than 100 years old and sits in a repurposed elementary school. Whenever it rains, the basement floods, and the city is sinking tens of thousands of dollars every year into repairing this outdated building.

"The cost to repair them was so expensive that the natural question that came next was, what does it cost to replace them?" Merriam City Administrator Christopher Engel said. "So we are in the process right now that is going to answer that question, if we were to replace the pool, replace the community center, what would it cost the taxpayers of Merriam them to do that."

City officials say fixing both facilities would cost around $5 million for a short-term band-aid while building new facilities would be cheaper to maintain for decades to come.

"Building new really puts Merriam in a position for the next two generations to have facilities that they don't have to worry about like the current generation does because we've got older facilities" Engel added.

City officials say if they eventually decide to build a new pool and community center, they could pay for it without raising taxes because sales tax receipts in Merriam are so high.

But they would still have to issue bonds and that would take a public vote.