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'Way too much money': $60M bond for Liberty recreation center denied by voters

Liberty community center
Posted at 9:08 PM, Apr 03, 2024

LIBERTY, Mo — Around 6,000 Liberty residents voted in Tuesday's municipal election, and 77% of them rejected a $60 million general obligation bond.

Upgrades like outdoor aquatics, including slides and a lazy river would've been added to the current community center.

The new activities center would've been 129,000 square feet with eight to nine basketball courts, a fitness center and more.

The community center serves many purposes in the city.

It's highly utilized by residents and people of different ages throughout Clay County like Kacey Ellwein.

"I use it probably five times a week," Ellwein said. "I try to come everyday, but that doesn't always happen."

Vanessa Smith said she's lived in Liberty for 44 years. She comes to the center as often as Ellwein.

"I come probably five or six times a week for yoga, weight lifting and other classes," Smith said.

While a lot of people come and go from the center, the majority of those who voted did not support the proposal for the changes.

Ellwein voted yes.

"I was shocked to be honest," Ellwein said. "From my point of view, it was an easy thing to think of."

He said the center is nice, but the upgrades are needed because it's outdated.

"I really wanted something for my future kids to go to that was nice, new, clean, and state of the art," Ellwein said.

Mike Phillips works out at the community center but doesn't live in Liberty. He didn't think long about what his decision would've been.

"I definitely would've voted for it," Phillips said. "I use this place and it's always nice to improve something you use."

One of the most common reasons expressed on the no side was the price tag and average property tax increase of $20/month.

"I think they were asking for way too much money," Smith said.

City leaders haven't re-convened yet about what the next steps could be or whether this is a bond voters will hear about again.

"All in all, I liked it," Ellwein said. "Obviously, something has to change for it to pass because it failed with flying colors."

Some people have an idea of where the city could focus instead.

"It could always use improvements, but the improvement they should look at first is keeping it cleaned and maintained," Smith said.