Another use for Arnold Hall proposed to city

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 25, 2014 

Another wrinkle is showing up in the long debate over Arnold Hall and building an outdoor festival space downtown.

Susan Coffman, chair of the Human Services Advisory Board has asked the council at its meeting June 19 to delay its decision on Arnold Hall so that city board can look at if it could house a non-profit center.

Coffman said, in an interview, that in Lee’s Summit 360’s strategic plan for the community, that goal was one of those set by the health and services group.

The idea is for smaller non-profits to have a place to share office space and resources, such as phone system, printers, or even a receptionist or accountant, to keep their costs down and provide better service.

A task force had started gathering some information, but that effort waned without a suitable location. The possibility of using Arnold Hall could give that idea new traction, she said.

“A lot of them would still be interested,” Coffman said.

Under the concept, the non-profits would pay for maintenance and utilities. Coffman said she thought there could be a lot of donated goods and services to bring the building up to code.

The Lee’s Summit Arts Council already has asked the city council to stay with the course it recommended, to use bathrooms in the building at 123 Third St. to support the festival space that is to include a stage for outdoor performances.

Council members Trish Carlyle and Diane Seif said they supported the idea.

Seif, who has served on the human services board, said that group’s task force should be given an opportunity to put together a plan.

“I’m not saying it is the best idea,” Seif said. “I think it might be an opportunity to take a look before the decision is made.”

The council had planned to discuss the Arnold Hall decision at the meeting, but Mayor Randy Rhoads postponed that discussion until July 10, saying that not all the information from architects was ready.

Councilman Allan Gray, who is pushing tearing down Arnold Hall and building a bigger outdoor space that first planned, said at the meeting that non-profits need more space and it would be a good idea for them to look at a non-profit center. He didn’t address if that center should be in Arnold Hall.

Asked to clarify his stance Gray said in an email:

“My comments at round table were to acknowledge that as a community we need to recognize the needs of all of our non-profits. And, accordingly, I believe the Human Services Advisory Board should look at the needs of our overall non-profit community. There has been discussion about this for some time. We, as a council, are continuing to look at what the voter approved outdoor performance space will be. And at our July 10 meeting we will have an opportunity to discuss the use of the entire property and how it can be used to support the art and cultural expectations of the voters of our community.”

The issue was left hanging with no clear direction that the council will take regarding Arnold Hall.

“I’m not sure we know what we want to do here,” Rhoads said.

In other action the council voted to:

Table a contract with the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council until it could have joint meeting with that group’s leaders to discuss adding performance measures to the agreement.

Approve contracts with the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street for services they provide for promoting economic development.

Pass the city’s $183 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Create a Community Improvement District for the downtown core, where the district can levy up to a one-cent sales tax to pay for downtown improvements, upkeep and programs

Approve a contract for renovation of the WPA Post Office on West Main Street.

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