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Upgrades to Kansas City parks will come quickly

Kansas City residents will start to see the results of their vote approving a new park tax as early as this weekend.

Park officials announced Tuesday that two more community centers will now be open on Sundays. A park inspection program will resume this month, and new flower beds will be planted with mums this fall.

These and other improvements are coming because voters approved a new half-cent sales tax Aug. 7. Even though the tax doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, the City Council will introduce an ordinance this week to provide $500,000 to start the park enhancements now. The money, from the city’s reserves, will be paid back once the new tax collections start.

“You’ll see we’re keeping the faith with voters,” Mayor Sly James said at a press conference announcing the fast-track plans for the new tax.

All 10 of the city’s community centers will host open houses from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday so people can check out the facilities and fall programs.

Beginning Sunday, the Tony Aguirre Community Center, 2050 West Pennway, and the Gregg/Klice Community Center near 18th and Vine will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Park officials said residents around those centers have in the past expressed a strong desire for Sunday hours. Up until now, only the Line Creek and Southeast community centers were open on Sundays.

After the tax takes effect, the parks department will assess whether other centers should also be open on Sundays. The department is also surveying community center users to determine what programs they want added or restored. The survey results should be available by late November.

All 10 of the city’s community centers will host open houses from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday so people can check out the facilities and fall programs.

Also this fall, crews will plant 12 new annual flower beds (two in each council district) with mums.

The city expects to collect about $3 million more annually for parks than have been available in the past. Ultimately, the department expects to hire about 40 new community center and park maintenance employees, including part-time and full-time positions.

Parks Director Mark McHenry said the additional money will allow the department to resume regular park inspections. Crews will mow parks and prune shrubs more frequently, as well as clean playgrounds, shelter houses, fountains and ball diamonds more regularly. Beginning next spring, the city will expand flower bed plantings from 46 beds to 90 beds throughout the city.

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