Neosho citizens expressed concerns at a town hall meeting Thursday evening about a possible sports complex being constructed on city land next to the Neosho Golf Course.
While the city has made no commitment to building the complex, they have taken part in a parks assessment study, of which the sports complex proposal was the result.
Last year, the city hired Land3 Studio, of Kansas City, to perform the $7,350 study, intended to determine what Neosho's park system is missing.
In March, Bob Bushyhead, president of Land3 Studio, presented council with early drawings of a complex including four baseball fields, four softball fields, three to four multi-purpose fields, a 300-yard driving range and at least 500 parking spaces, to be located on the city's 74 acres of land on the west side of the Neosho Municipal Golf Course.
However, the citizens living near that site, on Hale McGinty Drive, are concerned about what the construction of a sports complex would mean for their neighborhood and the value of their homes.
"Can you buy us out then when that happens since I built this pretty expensive house over there that I may not get my money back on it if it does go through," asked nearby resident Kristi Cote, noting that the addition of a complex would result in depreciation of her home.
While the city would not be buying out the nearby homes, Mayor Richard Davidson said the city did point out when seeing the drawings that the fields should be as far away from the six houses nearby as possible.
"I don't know anywhere you could go and get 74 acres worth of land and want to build a ball field that's not going to impact people, I don't mean that to diminish what it does here" Davidson said.
"The reality is Neosho's going to continue to grow, part of making Neosho attractive and getting people here is for kids to have something to do," he added.
Land3 is currently performing an economic impact study, at a cost of $3,950, to determine if the complex is worth pursuing.
Davidson said it is the belief of the council and city management that they should not invest in the city's current ballpark site, Morse Park, due to its location in a floodplain and its hard-to-find location.
"Morse Park is landlocked, Morse Park floods, Morse Park is harder to get to than it was a few years ago because of some railroad crossing closings, we have vandalism problems down there," Davidson said. "It's been the opinion of this council and city management in the last couple of years that spending more money in Morse Park is not the wisest investment."
David Ruth, councilman, said the idea of a sports complex is far off in the city's future, if it happens at all.
Page 2 of 3 - "We're at the stage right now, we're a long ways from this happening and if I was to give odds, and some other council members might disagree, I think about a 5 percent chance of ever becoming a reality," Ruth said, noting that the council does not know how much the project would cost or where the funding would come from. "We're not going to do anything if the majority of the public is opposed to it."
Meanwhile, audience members Bill Crowe and Eldon Morgan voiced their concerns about the city's legal challenge of the Neosho Transportation Development District.
"It's time for the city to quit trying to run the TDD and let the TDD do its job instead of obstructing improvements, economic development, and success for the city," Morgan read from a prepared statement. "Judge Selby settled this issue, but you were not satisfied."
Morgan was referring to a November 30 court ruling by Newton County Judge Kevin Selby, in which Selby ruled against the city's challenge of the TDD, citing the "doctrine of laches" which meant the city waited too long to bring the complaint forward.
Neosho city attorney Steve Hays said that ruling did not address the validity of the TDD itself, but the city's right to challenge that validity, while the TDD has maintained that the ruling did declare them a valid entity.
The city filed a petition in Aug. 2012 challenging the TDD based on the state statute the district was formed under and who acts as voters within the district.
The city filed a motion to appeal Selby's ruling in January, and all TDD projects, with the exception of the traffic light at Kodiak Road and Highway 60, have been stalled pending the result of that motion.
Davidson said the city's concerns about the legality of the TDD come down to whether or not the district would hold up in a taxpayer challenge. If it would not, it would leave the city to foot the bill for maintenance of roadways created in the district, the mayor said.
"We are on the hook for that maintenance regardless of what happens with the TDD," Davidson said. "We want to make sure that we're going to be paid for the maintenance that they're supposed to be paying us for the next 20 years. We saw what happened when councils and city managers don't follow the law in the city of Neosho and spend a lot of money in ways they're not supposed to. We're not going down that path again."
In other business, Davidson reported that the city currently has $8.6 million in the bank, with $2.3 million of that in the city's general fund. He said general sales tax revenue has been down 3.7 percent so far this fiscal year, though that is less than the city had budgeted for, as they had predicted a drop of 5 percent.
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