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School, county detail failed center negotiations

As first reported in The Landmark Newspaper last week, Platte County R-3 School officials and the Platte County Commission have mutually agreed to end negotiations on a community center partnership.

This week the county and school district released a joint press release discussing the situation. The text of that release is as follows:

The Platte County R-3 School District and the Platte County Commission could not reach a partnership agreement for a community center located on R-3 property and have mutually agreed to end negotiation.

After more than six months of ongoing discussions, it became clear to both parties that a decision that was acceptable to each would not be reached.

The county could not agree to the terms of the school district's final proposal. The offer required the county to make a long-term financial commitment to match funds to build an additional 2,000 seat recreational complex in four to 10 years.

"Both the county and the school district have the community's best interests at heart, but, at this time, the county cannot agree to a long-term financial commitment for this additional complex," Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight said.

"The county commission will work diligently to bring Platte City a community center that is impressive and cost-effective to county taxpayers."

Making an effort
To gauge public opinion for the area's recreational needs, the county, with representation from the school district, began performing in-depth studies and analysis in 2001. This information gathering effort involved market research, citizen surveys and the formation of a citizen steering committee to guide the process. The results showed that residents preferred a family leisure pool, with features such as zero-depth entry, water slides and a water playground.

The school district's most recent proposal offered six acres of property, which R-3 valued at more than $1 million, for a community center to be constructed. The school district also agreed to pay $25,000 annually for 20 years to help construct and operate an eight-lane, warm-water pool as part of the project.

The school district agreed to support an eight-lane, warm-water pool concept to accommodate the survey results of the county and budget constraints, even though a cold-water pool is preferable for competitive swimming.

In addition to this compromise, the school district offered nearby availability of classrooms and gym space to accommodate multifaceted programming and future needs of the community center project.

To justify the value of the property and annual commitment to the project, the district requested a future commitment from the county to construct the "Northern Platte County Recreational Complex."

The proposed facility would support the ongoing and increasing need for several youth athletic programs, including basketball, wrestling, indoor soccer, and volleyball.

This facility would have been built through matching funds of $4 million from the R-3 Schools and $4 million for Platte County. The school district offered to operate the facility or allow the county to operate it.

The county's decision
Upon final review, the commission felt that the school district's proposal to build the additional complex was not financially feasible for the county. The difference in what the county could reasonably pay—$1.5 million—and the total amount needed for such a project was too substantial. The county reviewed the offer extensively and determined that it would be more expensive to build the community center in partnership with the school district than if the county moved forward alone.

"I am disappointed that our school district could not come to an agreement with the Platte County Commission, but will respect their decision and support their efforts to develop a quality facility in the Platte City area," R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst said.

"We feel our offer of a prime location, significant cash and other partnerships with our existing facilities could have enhanced this project and brought to our community and surrounding area a first class facility that could improve the quality of life for people throughout all of Platte County. We live in the second fastest growing county and second wealthiest county in Missouri, and I truly believe now is the time for our school district, the county and other entities to create a larger vision for addressing the expectations of those constituents for many years to come."

Moving Forward
County officials will continue to look for different sites in Platte City to build the community center.

"Negotiations between the school district and the county commission have not been wasted time," 2nd District Commissioner Steve Wagner said.

"Both parties have learned a great deal about the needs for the area. There may be the potential to revisit this partnership in the future to address other needs that have arisen during our discussions, possibly through future additions to the facility."