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Roeland Park Community Center faces possible shutdown

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ROELAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

With Walmart moving out of Roeland Park to nearby Mission, city officials are looking at making some unpopular cuts to make up for the lost revenue.

The Roeland Park Community Center is a hub for local senior citizens.  But the building itself is now aging and running into problems Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Foster says they can't afford to fix.

And with the city dealing with some financial problems right now, she says something has to change.

The Roeland Park City Council voted Thursday night to authorize an agreement with a private developer to revamp the community center and add 60 senior living units on the site. The council's agreement allows the developer to seek state tax credits.

Residents are upset that the process moved so quickly that public input through a thoughtful process didn't occur.

Others say the community center is aging. Foster said the city can't afford the current upkeep and an overhaul of the center is needed.

Corroded pipes that go all the way to the sewer is one major expense, plus $200,000 more for a new roof.  And all that is happening as the city is about to lose $700,000 in revenue with Walmart set to move to a new location in Mission.

"We do have reserves, but we have to watch our spending," Foster said.

So when Dean Development offered to lease the building, update a new community center and add 60 units of apartments for ages 55 and up, the city jumped on it.

Last week, the council approved an agreement, allowing the developer to apply for some state tax credits ahead of a February deadline.

"My first reaction was 'Oh my God,'" said Tom Madigan, who feels the council has it all backward.  "It is very irritating that we come up with a proposal before talking to the citizens, that's the wrong way. These people are elected to represent our wishes.  Not to tell us our wishes."

Madigan is also worried about a clause in the proposal to bring some low income housing.

"Every person I've talked to today is going, 'What is it going to do to our property values?'" he said.

Foster stressed it won't be federally funded low-income housing, and she says there's a long way to go before the project's fully approved, including going through committee, council and public approval, or the deal is null and void.

"We definitely want citizen input because that is key," Foster said.

Some neighbors, like Madigan, are concerned about some programs leaving the center, like a daycare program and a food pantry.

Foster says part of the agreement states the developer has to reach a deal with Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department to continue offering all the some programs in place.

She also says there will be several town hall meetings before any further steps toward approval, starting with one this week.

The mayor plans to send automated calls detailing the place and time for that meeting.

Those meetings will occur even though the council passed the agreement 5-3 on Thursday night.

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

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