Three candidates for a vacated seat on the Merriam City Council made their cases before council members and Mayor Ken Sissom on Monday.
Not surprisingly, a proposed new pool and community center for the city dominated the discussion.
Brian Knaff emerged as the winner, besting Stoney Bogan and Joe Kronawitter for the Ward Two seat vacated by Jim Wymer, who resigned for health reasons. Knaff, whom Wymer asked to apply for his seat, will make his debut at the council’s March 13 meeting.
The candidates each answered three questions from Sissom before council members cast two rounds of votes. In the deciding round, Knapp defeated Kronawitter 5-2.
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Sissom said it was a nice change from the days when the city struggled to find a single candidate for an empty seat.
“We’re very fortunate with the three we had,” he said. “All of them have been involved to some degree with the city. I don’t know Brian personally, but everybody I talked to speaks very highly of him. He’ll be a good addition to the council.”
All three candidates listed the fate of the pool and community center as the top issue facing the city over the next two years.
For now, Knaff said, his plan is to serve out the remaining months in Wymer’s term and not run for the seat. Knaff, who served from 2006 to 2014 on the Merriam Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said his 24-year career as an auditor should come in handy with city budget discussions just around the corner.
And while the costs of building a new pool and community center, which could reach $30 million, are considerable, Knaff supports the investment.
“You see the price tag, and there’s a little sticker shock, and a big bond issue scares me,” he said. “But we need to think about our future.”
The main part of Merriam’s Irene B. French Community Center is more than 100 years old and plagued with leaks, temperature fluctuations, sewer odors and crumbling concrete and mortar.
The Merriam Aquatic Center also is showing its age, mainly in the form of leaks. At Monday’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Anna Slocum told members the pool lost about 900,000 gallons of water last year — 600,000 gallons more than normal evaporation and discharge alone would likely produce.
Sissom said Merriam residents will get the final say on whether to build new facilities. But there’s no doubt, he said, that big change is needed.
“Every time I see photos I’m embarrassed that the facilities are in this condition,” Sissom said. “Something has to give.”