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Vote stops bonds for Johnson County Museum in Overland Park’s King Louie building

Updated: 2013-11-15T05:57:10Z

By ROXIE HAMMILL

Special to The Star

Plans to renovate the former King Louie bowling alley into space for the Johnson County Museum and other government uses came to a halt Thursday when county commissioners voted not to go ahead with issuing $10.3 million in bonds.

The vote leaves in question the future location of the museum and what will become of the distinctive King Louie building, which also once housed a skating rink at 8788 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park.

One commissioner, Jason Osterhaus, suggested the county reconsider plans for the building in a year, after the museum has had more time for private fundraising.

County commissioners, meeting as the Public Building Commission, voted 4-3 against the first step in financing the renovation, which was publication of the bond notice. Any further action on the building, which has been vacant since 2009, will be taken up at a regular meeting.

The vote caps a long run of controversy about the building, which the county bought in December 2011 for $2 million and has put $1.6 million into repairs to stabilize it.

Originally the commission considered developing an ambitious museum of suburbia in that space, but the idea drew a fair amount of public criticism.

That idea eventually died, but commissioners still had plans to move the county museum in 2017 to the old King Louis building from its home in Shawnee. The museum has been plagued with mold and a wet basement, and it also needs more space and parking, supporters say.

The former bowling alley also was to have housed the Enterprise Center of Johnson County, plus early-voting and transit facilities.

Thursday’s vote doesn’t necessarily kill the King Louie rehab, but it makes its future much more doubtful. Steve Klika, who joined the commission this year, began to tilt the balance against the plan in August when he suggested the county cut its losses and sell the building, with proceeds going to a new courthouse. Commissioners Michael Ashcraft, John Toplikar and Osterhaus also have been firmly in the skeptics column.

“We do need to deal with the museum,” said Klika. “The facility is inadequate. I don’t disagree. The problem has been with the King Louie project and the process and the different things tied to it.”

The commission’s action seemed final enough that museum Director Mindi Love said: “We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board figuring out a location for the museum. I would have loved for it to have been at King Louie.”

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