In Tuesday’s special election, City of Sedalia voters will be asked to consider a one-eighth cent sales tax increase to support a new community center along with whether to remove the June 30, 2026, sunset provision on existing capital improvement sales taxes. 

The Democrat has compiled a list of common questions about the community center and the ballot issues. Answers come from Sedalia Parks and Recreation Director Amy Epple, the Yes Yes for Sedalia Committee, and previous Democrat articles. 

Where will the community center be located?

The Heckart Community Center will be at 201 S. Limit Ave., the previous location of Jennie Jaynes Stadium. The city owns the property.

What is the estimated time of completion?

Sue Heckart, who is donating millions to help construct and maintain the facility, said during a Sedalia City Council meeting in May the project must be completed by March 18, 2021, the 20th anniversary of her mother’s passing. Epple confirmed the center would be open by the deadline. According to Epple, the architects are confident this date can be met. 

How many jobs will the community center create?

Epple said in a public forum the center will bring part-time positions to the Parks Department but not have a lot of impact on full-time staff. 

Who is designing the center?

SFS Architecture out of Kansas City designed it and brought on local Robert Rollings Architects as part of the team. Epple said one of the reasons SFS was chosen was because it brought on a local company. 

Are the pictures just vague ideas or is that what the center will look like?

They are artist’s renderings that show a proposed architectural design. According to the Yes Yes for Sedalia website, they are renderings for two reasons: due to the nature of the construction process, the designs are conceptual and subject to change based on future construction costs, and because the plans could change if more donations are received for additional features.

Will local contractors/builders work on the construction?

Epple said the project will go out to bid since it is a government project. Bids will be evaluated on a number of things, including the best price for taxpayers and if it is a local company.

Why isn’t the city using a building that already exists?

Epple said there is not an existing building that would meet the needs for the community center. The current location is a good, central location, according to Epple. 

“The big piece is it’s not just a gym, it’s a pool. When you’re doing a pool you’re going down like 10 feet into the ground,” Epple said. “You’ve got to have the right level and everything to do it...This spot is a good spot and I feel like now is the time to do it.”

Does the city have a plan from the engineer/architect that is within budget?

The community center has a budget of $20 million, according to Epple. The Parks Department has blueprints of the community center that contain a cost per square foot for each area, building budget, construction costs, soft costs, and furnishing costs. 

“When we first started talking with them (SFS) I kind of laid out, ‘OK here’s all the things that I want.’ Then you were at $28 million so then we had to start, we knew that our budget was $20 million, then we had to start meeting with them and get it down…We just started to look at what can we cut,” Epple said. 

What will the hours of operation be?

The Heckart Community Center will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Parks and Rec will also host special events throughout the year at varying times, and the facility can be rented for events such as lock-ins, according to Epple.

What will be free to use in the center?

According to Epple, the walking track will be free. The senior center located inside the new community center will be operated the same way that it is now and will not require a user fee. Other things inside the community center will have a fee, but people can just pay for what they want to use. 

What will the fee structures look like?

Epple said in a July public forum that she won’t have definitive fees until closer to building construction and completion, as maintenance costs could change. If someone makes an additional donation to the center, it will change how much it costs to operate it. There will be a payment structure with multiple options such as daily, monthly or yearly fees and individual, family, or senior options.

Epple and City Administrator Kelvin Shaw have conducted a feasibility study using information from eight community centers in the area. Epple said other Parks Departments she contacted did not have their fee structures in place before building the center either. 

Epple has posted a study on Facebook showing what the fee costs are at the other cities’ community centers. She said the Sedalia center fees will be equal to or less than those.

Why is it called the Heckart Community Center? 

If the community supports both ballot issues, Heckart has agreed to pay the interest on the bonds, not to exceed $20 million. Heckart said the donation is to honor the memory of her parents, Del and Stella. 

“It’s not about Sue Heckart and it’s not about putting the Heckart name on another building. I would hate for somebody not to vote for it because of that…” Sue Heckart told the Democrat last month. “That’s the main thing with me is that I hope people know that I’m doing it in memory of and to honor my parents. It’s something that they wanted to see happen for Sedalia. Then the other thing is I wanted a facility that everybody could enjoy and be a part of.”

Epple said the center would not be possible without Heckart’s donation and without voters approving Tuesday’s ballot issues. The Park Board and the council approved the name.

Why does the ballot language not include anything about a community center?

Due to the way the state requires ballot language be written, the ballot does not explicitly say the revenue generated by the ballot issues will be used to build a community center. The city is limited on how it can write an ordinance since it has to comply with state statutes. Since the sales tax is a park tax and not a specific community center tax, it must be stated as such.

Will the sales tax be used for anything else?

Epple said the revenue would be “strictly used for the community center” as stated by the Park Board and the council. After it is built, the tax will be used to help maintain the center. 

Yes Yes for Sedalia Chairman Steve Bloess spoke to the council during its July 15 meeting, asking the members to clarify for voters what the revenue created by the two ballot issues would be used for. Council confirmed the revenue would be used for the community center. 

Since it is a park tax, the funds cannot be used for anything outside of the Parks Department.

What does it mean to remove a sunset provision on a sales tax?

Epple explained to the Democrat in May that removing the sunset will not mean an additional tax, but that the existing tax stays in place instead of expiring. A sunset provision is put on a law to require the law’s effect ends after a designated date. Removing a sunset provision from the tax means the current tax will continue instead of ending. 

Epple explained that after 2026, the half-cent is no longer guaranteed. The city needs to remove the sunset so it can show it can continue to do its work and show it would be able to pay the loan if the Parks Department was unable to.  

“It’s just like if I went out to get a loan myself,” Epple explained. “You have to prove that you can afford to take the money out or that you have equity to be able to. That’s basically what that is.”

What is the sales tax rate in Sedalia versus other towns?

Bloess said if the two issues get passed, Sedalia’s sales tax rate will be 8.175, which is lower than “the vast majority of towns” that are similar to Sedalia.

How will this sales tax affect me?

A one-eighth cent sales tax means consumers would pay one additional cent for every $8 spent in the city of Sedalia. For every $800 spent it would be an additional $1. The current Sedalia park sales tax is three-eighths of a cent and will increase to one half cent with the additional one-eighth cent.

Why is an increased sales tax the right plan to pay for it? Why not just take donations?

“They've been working on this for over 20 years and Sue is the only person that has come forward with wanting to offer to help. So unless there’s somebody else that I don’t know about, that’s why,” Epple said. 

Does this have anything to do with the recent Pettis County property assessment increases?

The Pettis County assessment increases have nothing to do with the community center. The assessment increases are determined by county government and the sales tax is under the city government.  

Pettis County Assessor Chris Woolery explained during a July Pachyderm meeting that property taxes had increased very little over the past decade, leading the county to drop out of compliance with the State Tax Commission. This meant the county had to raise them at a high rate to get back in compliance. 

Why build a community center when there are other things in the community that need to be fixed?

Epple explained that Parks and Rec revenue, including the proposed tax increase, cannot be used for any other purpose such as repairing roads, just like Street Department revenue cannot be used to improve a park.

How will the community center affect people who live outside the city limits?

The community center will be open to everyone, including those outside the city limits, according to Epple. That applies to all current Parks and Rec programs too.

“Even volleyball camp we had 52 girls, of the 52 girls not even half were 65301 zip codes. We’re pulling in all of these people from outside communities. Which is great for our community because now they're going to come here and maybe use the community center and then go shopping. It’s a win-win. Everyone can use it, everyone is paying for it,” Epple said.

How will the community center affect the public pools? 

Epple said pool hours are based on programming so indoor pool hours would be different during summer months when the outdoor pools are open. Centennial and Liberty pools will remain in operation if the community center opens. 

She also said the community center pool would allow them to move outdoor pool swim lessons and pool parties inside in the case of bad weather instead of canceling them. 

How will the fitness area affect the other gyms in town?

The fitness area will include a variety of equipment but it will not be a large area with as many offerings as local gyms.

Epple said statistically community centers attract citizens who are new to working out or are uncomfortable in larger gyms. Once they become comfortable with working out and want to move up to the next level, they tend to move to other gyms that offer more equipment. She said the center is not intended to compete with area gyms.

“... Really statistically if you look at some of the other community centers that have been built, Warrensburg when they built theirs 20 years ago, now they have four to five other fitness areas. The communities became much healthier,” she added.

How will a community center benefit the community?

Community centers tend to improve quality of life in cities and can help attract new families or businesses. Epple gave the example of expanding adult swim offerings.

“We have adult swim and it’s seven days a week, two and a half months out of the year. We average 89 people that come to that. It’s adults and really the average age, I would say is probably over 55...They’re coming out because they’ve met a friend out there, just walking in the water...” said Epple. “You can look and talk to other communities. Warrensburg talked about how much it has changed their community. A huge factor was because of the community center.”

Community centers can also bring an economic impact. The Sedalia center’s three gyms will allow Sedalia to host more tournaments, which would bring people to the city who utilize hotels, restaurants and stores.

“All these new businesses and stuff are coming in. That’s one thing that they’re wanting for their employees because it’s going to make you happier and healthier. You’re a better employee if you’re happier and healthier,” Epple said.

What kind of events are planned for the center?

The department is open to taking suggestions. According to Epple, the events they have planned include additional adult sports leagues and tournaments, year-round swim lessons, additional pool events, arts and crafts, fitness classes, dance classes, archery, educational classes such as Bridge, sewing, watercolor, computer, cooking, floral design and foreign language, more family events, sleepovers, and more activities for kids. A full list of planned offerings can be found on the Parks and Rec Facebook page.

What if I have other questions?

Call the Sedalia Parks and Recreation Department at 660-826-4930 or visit sedaliaparks.com/heckart-community-center.

Previous Sedalia Democrat articles about the community center

July 31: Yes Yes for Sedalia works to inform voters

July 17: Public forum answers community center questions

July 15: Sedalia City Council clarifies purpose of August tax issues

July 12: Heckart reflects on community center

June 14: Park Board looks at community center tax education

May 24: Parks Department discusses community center plans

May 10: Parks Board looks at community center

May 6: Sedalia City Council approves park tax to ballot

April 5: Sedalia Park Board looks at new projects

City Reporter

Emily Walton is the city reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering local government and various city departments.

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