Joplin city officials say they have determined that the $40 million Joplin Commons project proposed last year cannot be built under one roof, and they are looking at options.
The proposal was presented to the City Council in June by then-City Manager Mark Rohr and the city’s parks and recreation director, Chris Cotten.
It was to be developed as part of a $130 million Joplin Community Phase 2 Recovery Plan that is to be financed, in part, with $113 million from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance program. The CDBG grant was announced last year as part of the federal assistance to Joplin for tornado recovery. An earlier CDBG award of $45 million also was given to the city for help with recovery.
Interim City Manager Sam Anselm said Wednesday in a statement that city officials intend to look at ways to build the amenities for recreation and activities that the Joplin Commons is intended to provide. He said the city staff determined that the city could not guarantee that the project could meet CDBG income requirements if it were built under one roof as proposed.
The city staff became concerned that there would not be enough low- to moderate-income residents using all the amenities to comply with CDBG requirements. That program requires that a majority of those who benefit from a project be people in low- to moderate-income levels.
“Upon further city review of CDBG-DR guidelines, staff raised concerns that having all programs and activities under one roof would make the Commons project ineligible for federal funding through CDBG,” Anselm said in the statement. “To avoid putting the city at future financial risk, we are working on other ideas that would meet the same objectives as the Commons as it was originally proposed, but in a way that doesn’t put us in a position where we have to pay back the funds used to construct the facility.”
Federal regulations would require that the grant money be paid back if it were not used in accordance with the CDBG rules, including income eligibility.
City officials last year said the Commons would be a recreational complex that would include many of the amenities that Joplin residents have said in public input sessions they would like to have. Those would include an indoor swimming pool suitable for competition, a new senior citizens center, indoor basketball and soccer courts, community rooms, a skate park, and fields for Little League play. Many of the amenities were contained in Joplin’s “Blueprint for the Future,” which came from public input and city staff and City Council ideas.
A site for the complex has not been determined.
Cookie Estrada, CEO of the Joplin Family YMCA, last year told the city that the Joplin Commons as proposed would duplicate many of the Y’s services. He asked that the Y be incorporated into the Commons operation.
Anselm could not be reached Wednesday to answer questions about the change in the plan.
The city’s statement also said work is being done to hire a consulting firm to manage the city’s block grant program.
A request for qualifications has been issued, and the city staff is in the final stage of reviewing those applicants.
The purpose of hiring a consultant is to help ensure that the city complies with all the regulations and goes through all the procedures that are required to use the grant money appropriately, the statement said.
OTHER AMENITIES of the Joplin Commons that were outlined last year included accommodations for arena football, a multi-use meeting space for 3,000, a community storm shelter, a play area for small children, a walking track, and a therapeutic pool.