The results of citizen satisfaction surveys consistently state that residents place a high priority on maintaining Merriam’s Parks & Rec facilities. In the 2012 survey, a question asked which Parks and Rec items should receive the most attention from City leaders in the coming years? The top five responses included:
1. Maintenance of parks
4. Park Amenities
5. Fitness Center
This information provided direction for evaluating budget priorities, and during the past 4 ½ years various projects were completed to meet these needs. Staff implemented practices that improved mowing, landscaping and parks maintenance equipment, gutters and downspouts, playground equipment and monument signs, as well as renovations to the Fitness Center.
The current priorities — from an operations and services standpoint — are the Irene B. French Community Center and the Merriam Aquatic Center. When addressing the many structural and systems issues at these facilities, a review of various codes and regulations must be considered. Usually this involves additional costs to remove walls where a series of new problems are exposed. Some of the repairs for these new discoveries cost hundreds of thousands of dollars the City was not planning to spend on facilities maintenance. Yet, this is a reoccurring situation we face when working to keep facilities open and running.
The Fitness Center renovation project at the IBFCC is a fairly recent example of how planned maintenance projects can be restricted due to the age of the building and an inability to comply with building codes. The original plan was to update the space to an open floorplan, but due to fire code restrictions — including no sprinkler system — all doors and walls had to remain.
The same thing happened with updates to the Art Gallery. Circulation is difficult with small rooms and doorways, yet removing walls or widening doorways is not permitted. The hardwood floors are beautiful, but at the end of their useful life which is evident by thinning and breaking boards.
Staff does its best to maintain facilities with available resources, but structural limitations, unknown issues below the surface, cost of repairs, and the inability to meet current building codes prevent us from doing all that needs to be done. Since facility studies were completed in 2014 and 2015 additional issues have arisen. Due to all the needed repairs we know about, unknown problems we frequently encounter, and those recently discovered, there’s a major concern that renovating existing facilities might cost much more than the anticipated $10–$12 million.
At the Feb. 27, 2017 Merriam City Council meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Anna Slocum made a presentation that featured photos of many of the newest problem areas at the IBFCC and the MAC, as well as new photos of some of the known issues. View the presentation below: