Merriam moves ahead with community center despite opposition

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- The city of Merriam is moving ahead with plans for a new community center despite opposition from some residents. Opponents claim plans for a new swimming pool are not what voters were promised.

Last year voters approved a sales tax to help pay for the $30-million community center, which will include a gym, jogging track and indoor aquatics center. The community center will replace the city's current outdoor swimming pool and eliminate the water slide and high dive.

A group calling itself Merriam Concerned Citizens claims that the swimming pool they've enjoyed for years is being replaced with a much smaller outdoor pool.
They're also unhappy than an additional $6.6-million will be spend to build a parking garage to accommodate a new Johnson County library, which is getting land on the park space.

"They are upset about the outdoor pool," said Dan Leap, a former Merriam city councilman. "They think it’s a bait and switch on the city staff’s part. They voted for all these drawings of a big pool, this and that, and now it turns out it’s a small outdoor pool. That seems to be the big problem here."

City leaders say the outdoor pool is being expanded as part of a compromise plan approved by the council, costing an additional $1.6-million. Proponents say the new aquatic center will have 7.5 percent more swimming space between the outdoor and indoor swimming pools.

"This is going to be different," said Ken Sissom, Merriam's mayor. "It’s going to be a different facility than what people have become used to. We’ve had the luxury of having a wonderfully large pool but by today’s standards they simply don’t build them that large, particularly for a community the size of Merriam."

The city says the Merriam Dolphins swim team will be able to compete and host swim meets at the new outdoor aquatic center. But opponents believe the outdoor pool is still too small. They want the plans redesigned with more outdoor swimming area before they are finalized next month.

Opponents say they would rather eliminate the library to preserve their outdoor recreation space.

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