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spirit-homes-not-affordableDavid & Janet Crow, co-founders of the Faulkner County Tea Party, wrote today’s Letter to the Editor in the Log Cabin about Mayor Tab Townsell’s latest folly — the purchase Spirit Homes for yet another parks facility.

The Conway City Council has been asked by the Mayor to purchase the Spirit Homes Building, the size of 4 football fields, on the far west side of Conway for a recreational community center.

Cost of the Spirit Homes building is $3.5 Million.

When the Mayor first floated his idea for the center he was envisioning Conway’s to be like the Jones Center in Springdale which includes full aquatics center, skate rink, tennis courts, football and soccer fields, party rooms and dining facilities.  Currently, they are considering housing a 50-meter pool, two other pools and other aquatics facilities.  The aquatic portion will occupy only 25% of the building.  Parks & Recreation Director, Steve Ibbotson has forecasted in 2014 the cost of the aquatics facilities alone to be $22 Million.  Building out the remaining portion of building brings it to $10’s of millions of dollars.

Consider:  Conway receives annual revenue from AP/hamburger tax of $3.2 Million which is used to build, maintain and upgrade Conway parks.

Realize:  Steve Ibbotson, last month, forecasted an additional need for $28.7 Million to maintain and upgrade existing parks which does NOT include Spirit Homes.

Dilemma:  Mayor Townsell is asking the council to approve a purchase of the 200,000 + sq foot building and land for $3.5 Million, build out an aquatics facility only, forecasted to be $22 Million and add to that a potential for $28.7 Million for upgrade, maintenance of existing parks.

Totals:  $54.2 Million expenditure for parks with only $3.2 Million in revenue annually.

Oh, by the way…..What about maintenance?  The Jones Center a facility the same size as Spirit Homes annual maintenance is $3.6 -$4 Million.

Good questions have been asked by the Conway Chamber of Commerce and many of the who attended some of the Spirit Homes public meetings.  Here are some of these:

What is the overall cost to renovate the facility and to actually build out whatever recreational amenities you wish to put in?

What are the on-going costs associated with operations?  What is the forecast?

Are you considering the location being accessible to people in the midtown, east, south and north sides of town?

Can we have a feasibility study?

According to the Mayor, a good business practice feasibility study will not be coming any time soon.  We received a note which stated, “The feasibility study will not deliver a capital budget or a full operating cost for the facility.  It has not even been fully determined by the city council what is going in the facility.”

So, even though some council members, many citizens, and the Chamber of Commerce have asked for one, all that is contracted for is a pre-feasibility study.  He stated in an email ,“…to determine if the building is sound, environmentally safe and can be converted to new uses in a cost effective manner.”

This is not close to what is needed for a project of the size he is wanting.  We agree with a comment the Conway Chamber made about this, “Just start over somewhere with something smaller that is more cost- effective and doable at this time.”

Conway is a wonderful place to live and we have many reasons to be proud of our city.  We hope the council will make the decision to be fiscally responsible.