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Merriam residents pack city council meeting trying to save pool before Thursday

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- Merriam residents made a last-ditch effort Monday to save their outdoor pool just three days before the city plans to begin building its $30 million replacement.

Residents approved $24 million in bonds in 2017 to build a new community center. The 10-year 1/4-cent sales tax took effect Jan. 1, 2018. Some voters who approved the measure packed Merriam's City Council meeting Monday, saying the design doesn't call for what they paid for.

Merriam will break ground Thursday on a community center featuring both an indoor and outdoor pool at Vavra Park, along with a gym and jogging track. But they'll build it on the site of the current outdoor facility and remove the water slide and high dive.

The pool will go from 50 meters to 25 yards or perhaps 25 meters. City council members discussed making the change to meters in a work session following Tuesday’s meeting.

“I give 100 percent in every practice and in every race. Why is the city of Merriam lowering their standards to 90 percent?" asked Taylor Duckworth, a seventh-grader.

“We pay more money. We voted for it, and we should get something good out of it. Listen to your citizens. Listen to your taxpayers. Take a second look. You owe it to your citizens," said another teen, Tyler Ruzich.

Merriam city staff told the crowd they went off USA Swimming standards in originally selecting a 25-yard pool. They decided on building a new smaller pool when the price tag for repairs of the current space would have neared $1 million and could have topped $4 million if they opted for a new pool basin.

Some residents called for wholesale changes, including cutting plans for a new Johnson County Library on that same land out of the deal if it means compromising the outdoor space.

After more than an hour of public comment, city officials adjourned for a work session regarding the pool's design. A meeting to finalize plans is scheduled for Sept. 24.

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