LS again seeks uses for Arnold Hall

City Council backs away from demolishing building for outdoor stage space

July 16, 2014 

Lee’s Summit is again seeking proposals for reusing Arnold Hall.

Mayor Randy Rhoads broke a tie vote July 10 on whether the city would try to find money to finance Councilman Allan Gray’s plan to tear down the city-owned building and enlarge the area of a festival space to on the land at 123 Third Street.

Several council members do want to raze Arnold Hall, but that would have increased the costs well above the $600,000 budget.

The council earlier asked Hollis+Miller architects for cost estimates for a design for an enlarged space using the entire parcel.

The city had a budget of $600,000 for the downtown venue. Gray’s proposal would cost between $775,226 and $973,975, depending on the design choices, according to architects.

Gray on Thursday proposed finding more money to allocate to the downtown venue, and Derek Holland, Dave Mosby and Diane Seif voted with him. Bob Johnson, Diane Forte, Rob Binney and Trish Carlyle said no. Rhoads said Allan’s plan was “scope creep” and voted no.

Seif then proposed council go back to an earlier plan of taking proposals for reusing Arnold Hall, which is now vacant, with the aim of getting a financially sustainable plan for that building. The council voted 7-1, with Gray voting no, take that route.

Gray said that in several years the city could be looking back saying: “If only we had done better, if only we had thought more broadly, if only we had thought more boldly.”

Johnson said the city’s credibility is on the line.

The city has a $1.5 million deficit for revenue in its general fund this year—city officials hope it is a one-time gap and is working on reducing spending while the deficit is covered by reserve funds.

Johnson said the city less than a month ago approved that budget and now could be looking at reserve funds for the festival space.

“Where does it stop?” Johnson said. “I think we have a commitment to stay within $600,000.”

Holland said developing such amenities is an inexact science. He said the council shouldn’t be locked into the earlier budget because now it is looking at a different site and the situation has changed.

The city couldn’t buy the original location envisioned on Market Street.

Holland asked the others to look at the site across from City Hall on Third Street and imagine the stage and festival space with Arnold Hall and without the building.

“What we’re trying to do is get it right,” Holland said. “Arnold Hall is sitting there in the way.”

Carlyle said that keeping Arnold Hall would provide restrooms for families using the festival space while staying on budget.

The proposed design of the larger space doesn’t include restrooms. Gray said the city could use portable toilets.

Seif said she doesn’t want Lee’s Summit to be a “port-a-potty” town.

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