Including residents in the decision-making process for the construction of Merriam’s new community center and a potential partnership with the Johnson Council Library are among the many initiatives city officials have outlined for the $30 million project.
Merriam officials highlighted a tentative plan Feb. 12 during a City Council meeting that discussed the beginning phases of the design and construction of the new facility at Vavra Park, 6040 Slater St.
The first order of business: fleshing out the contract with McCarthy Building Companies, the firm that will oversee the design and construction of the building.
“The goal of this entire contract process is to get us to a guaranteed maximum price, so we are not designing a building and hoping it will fit into the budget,” Assistant City Administrator Meredith Hauck said of contract negotiations.
The 15-member group negotiating the terms consists of city staff, member subcontractors, architects and engineers, Hauck said. The final contract — to address key issues like general terms and conditions, payment schedules and insurance policies — will likely be presented to council members at the Feb. 26 meeting.
The new facility — paid for through a 10-year, quarter-cent sales tax, which took effect Jan. 1 — will include indoor and outdoor pools, a state-of-the art fitness center, an indoor walking track, and a child watch area along with free WiFi and a lounge area.
Merriam residents voted in September to build a new facility rather than spending $20 million to renovate the existing Irene B. French Community Center at 5701 Merriam Drive.
Residents will begin participating in the decision-making process as early as April. A design committee, made up of residents and stakeholders appointed by the mayor, will work throughout the duration of the project to offer feedback in the design and building process. Merriam will also hold open houses for residents to share feedback in May, June and July.
“This project started as a recommendation from a resident-led committee after months of evaluation about what would best meet the needs of our community,” Hauck said. “It’s even more important to have public input now as we begin to give the building shape.”
Merriam and the Johnson County Library Board have also been in discussions since September about a possible partnership in which the two would share the site. Details on what that partnership could entail will be presented to council members in March.
The project will consist of four phases throughout its two-year span with the first phase — the design phase — to begin once the contract with McCarthy is approved at the end of this month.
Council members approved an ordinance Jan. 22 to begin negotiations with McCarthy Building Companies for the design and building contract for the 66,000-square-foot community center.
At the meeting, city officials disclosed an uncle-nephew tie between Merriam’s mayor, Ken Sissom, and the project manager of the construction team, Andrew Masters. Masters is the son of Sissom’s wife’s sister.
After learning of the familial tie from Sissom, City Administrator Chris Engel consulted City Attorney Nicole Proulx Aiken to determine whether the relationship violated any laws. After reviewing the case, Proulx Aiken concluded that the relationship did not violate any code of ethics laws or state of interest laws.
Selection committee members said they were not aware of the familial tie at the time of their decision.
Masters, who grew up in Merriam and learned to swim at the community center, still has close ties to the city.
We felt his tie to Merriam “was a plus,” Engel said. “We want something that is Merriam-specific. We felt like this is somebody who understands who we are.”
Council members echoed Engels sentiments.
“I am very comfortable with this, because I think because he has so many links to the city, he will do a good job,” Councilman Al Frisby said. “He has a motivation to do a good job.”
St. Louis-based McCarthy has offices in 16 cities, including Overland Park. Construction for the new facility is slated to begin in early fall.