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Patrons get answers
about proposed center

by Kim Tiefenthaler
Landmark reporter

A community forum to discuss the pros and cons of building a community center on the Platte County R-3 School District campus attracted approximately 70 community members, parents, and school staff at the Platte County R-3 Wilson Performing Arts Center on Thursday night.

Community members came to voice their opinions, questions and concerns regarding the proposition of a community center on 10-acres of school property to the members of the Platte County R-3 School Board.

Mark Harpst, superintendent of Platte County R-3 School District, began the forum with an information handout concerning the most asked questions about the proposed community center.

The information covered a wide range of topics from why the district is considering this proposal, to how the project would be funded and if a bond issue would be required to support the project.

Harpst verbally explained the information provided on the handout in detail and then opened the floor up to questions, comments and concerns.

A concern for many people in attendance was the maintenance of the facility. Harpst reassured everyone that the only responsibility the district would have regarding the facility would be the gift of land if the issue were to pass.

"The district wouldn't have any obligation for maintenance or operation of the facility," stated Harpst. "The YMCA is the current operating agent under the current discussions."

A related concern was how the school could ensure it would be able to gain the most optimal use from the community center once it was built.

Harpst responded: "We will not put two million dollars in bond money in the project and not walk away feeling pleased. It would be said up front and in the contract of who has the rights to the facility, when it gets used by the district and how."

With the expected continuing growth of the district, patrons expressed concerns if the site could possibly be used for another schoolinstead of having their students shipped by bus to Barry Road or another site a distance from the current campus.

Stan Palmer responded to the future possibility of bussing the students, "I'm all for the community center but I think the land should be better used for the school. We need to keep all our other sites within two to three miles of the current campus."

Harpst explained that with the current traffic congestion that is at the campus, the land wouldn't be considered for another school. He continued that the district does have other options open to them when enrollment warrants another school.

The site Harpst referred to is 30-acres of land offered by Tiffany Springs when the enrollment makes the need apparent in the future. Reassurance came that that offer is in the future and is just an offer, no decisions have been made regarding that site or others in the area.

In 1988, the Platte City campus held 600 students, today the campus has 1,700 students, which doesn't include the career center.

"We're only beginning to touch our growth, imagine where we'll be in 10 years, its scary," stated Harpst. "In three to 10 years, the high school will probably occupy the middle school. At this time that is all speculation. It all depends on growth."

A tax increase was also at the forefront of the discussion. According to Harpst, he doesn't feel there would be a tax increase issue.

The school district is estimated to contribute $2-3 million to the project. However, if significantly more funds were needed, a tax increase may be needed but that would require voter approval by the patrons of the school district.

Discussion of the City of Platte City's involvement with the proposed community center was also brought to the forum. Currently, the project would be a collaborative effort between the school district and the county. The Platte County Parks and Recreation sales tax would contribute a minimum of $7 million and the Platte County R-3 School District would contribute a minimum of $2 million.

Harpst was asked if the City of Platte City is interested in a contribution to the project. Harpst simply responded that, "I asked and the invitation wasn't extended by the mutual parties."

Alicia Stevens, a wife of a Platte City Parks and Recreation board member responded that even though the money support may not be there from the city that their parks and rec department is very supportive of the issue. "Is Platte City here with you not necessarily, but is Platte City Parks and Rec with you, yes they are."

Harpst compared the proposed facility to the $14 million community center built in North Kansas City. Harpst stated that that type of facility is what is being considered for Platte City, and invited people from the community to tour that facility when wanting to get a vision of what may be developed.

Overall Harpst felt the forum accomplished what the board set out to do.

"I was very pleased with the turnout and I felt there was good interaction between the board and the people that attended. I feel we accomplished what we set out to do and that was two fold, to set information to people on what was being considered and to hear from people what they felt regarding the project," said Harpst.

Harpst stated that the board will spend the next few months pondering the pros and cons, as well as the thoughts expressed by people at the forum before making any final decisions.