The Sedalia School District 200 and the Sedalia Parks and Recreation Department have entered into an agreement to help solve some issues for the district and improve offerings at the Heckart Community Center.
During the Aug. 6 special election, Sedalia voters approved a one-eighth cent sales tax increase and removal of the June 30, 2026, sunset provision on existing capital improvement sales taxes to be used to build the Heckart Community Center. Sue Heckart, former owner of Heckart Funeral Home and founder of the Heckart Family Foundation, agreed to pay the interest on the bonds for the center not exceeding $20 million through Heckart’s donation to the Heritage Foundation in Sedalia.
The Sedalia Board of Education and Sedalia Park Board have both approved a memorandum of understanding for Sedalia 200 to pay for the cost to increase the center’s originally planned 25-yard, four-lane lap pool to eight competitive lanes with a dive well where Smith-Cotton High School could practice and host its competitions. This cost was roughly estimated to be $6 million.
Sedalia Parks and Recreation Director Amy Epple and Sedalia 200 Superintendent Steve Triplett explained conversations about the project were brought up by members of the Yes Yes Committee.
“We kind of started talking and meeting to see if it could work,” Epple said. “What are their needs? What are our needs? The big thing for ours was we wanted to make sure the community was getting everything they voted for and that there wasn't any lost promises on programming and time and stuff. The school district was great about working with us on their needs for the swim team and how can we make it work with the community while still getting the hours they need.”
Epple explained the pool will tentatively open at 5:30 a.m. and then would close at 2 p.m. for maintenance. The school district swim team would then be allowed to use it from 4 to 6 p.m. during the months they have practice. The leisure area of the pool, including two additional lap lanes, would re-open for the community at 5:30 p.m. The eight competitive lap lanes and diving well would be closed for the overlapping half hour for the team to use it.
Triplett explained school board members decided to approve the agreement because they thought it would save taxpayers money in the long run. The Joseph W. Arbisi Memorial Swimming Pool at the Sedalia Middle School is 47 years old and takes anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to maintain each year, a cost Triplett said is only going to keep increasing.
Another concern is the district’s growing enrollment rate. Sedalia 200 was looking at the possibility of building an additional elementary school. With the district constructing a new early childhood center, the south end of the middle school will be vacated. With the district using the community center pool, Triplett said the board is looking at filling in the Arbisi pool, freeing up the north side of the building. The two sides could then be converted into more classrooms.
“The thought is that we could change those spaces back into middle school-aged appropriate classrooms and redistribute our grade levels in the district and probably not have to build another elementary school,” Triplett explained.
“The way we look at it is we spend approximately $6 million now instead of $20 to $25 million down the road for an elementary school. We’re trying to think long term and what would be the best use of taxpayer dollars.”
Both Epple and Triplett highlighted how this decision was made as a “win-win,” was made to benefit the community as a whole, and will save taxpayers money in the long run. Both said neither party would be able to build as nice of a facility without the other.
“In the long term it’s going to be saving taxpayers money because you have one site, one facility,” Epple said. “We’ll be able to maintain it and take care of it instead of their (school) staff having to do that over there, the chemicals, the water, all of that. Just have one body of water.
You’re getting a nicer, bigger facility that everyone gets to use...”
Several citizens were concerned when the Sedalia City Council passed an ordinance Nov. 18 declaring its intent for the city to borrow funds not to exceed $29 million to build the community center, instead of $20 million. Triplett explained part of the increase came from the school district thinking it would take out a loan to pay for its part, which Triplett said is not happening now.
“Now we’ve looked at our financial structure and we’re going to not have to borrow that money. That takes that piece out of that $29 million,” he said.
Epple also said that amount was a maximum cap and she is still working hard to keep the cost where the city will only have to borrow $20 million for the center.
“I think (City Administrator) Kelvin (Shaw) was just trying to make sure that we were covering everything,” Epple said. “Make sure that we have the ability to borrow the $29 million. We (Parks Department) have money in our reserve funds to be able to help out if we need to but we’d really like to stick to the original $20 million borrowing. That’s the goal.”
Epple and Triplett also addressed community members’ concerns over not seeing any progress on the center. They both said a lot of progress is being made, it is just in the planning stages with architects, engineers, and other professionals. All of the documents, layouts, and blueprints have to be done correctly before they can begin building.
“If you sat in meetings that we sit in you'd understand,” Triplett said. “To put a facility like this together, the detail that goes into the engineering alone is mind boggling. There will be $5 million under the ground that no one will ever see with fiber, with cables, with sewage, with gas. It’s just endless and the amount of people that have to come together to design and put these types of projects together.”
Epple said the sales tax for the center will start being collected Jan. 1 and the Parks Department will start receiving the money March 7. The groundbreaking will happen after that date. Epple said she plans to start getting more information and pictures out to the community about the center around the beginning of the year.
Both Triplett and Epple stressed they want members of the community to call them with questions they have about the community center and the school district’s agreement.
“I think it’s scary to people because this is what we would call an intergovernmental contract and I don’t know if it’s ever been done before in Sedalia,” Triplett said. “It’s new and anything new is scary and they have a lot of questions. We just hope that they pick up the phone and ask the people that have the answers. If we don’t have the answer we’ll find the answer for them.”
The Parks Department can be contacted at 660-826-4930 and the school district can be contacted at 660-827-8938.