The Lenexa City Council has rejected a consulting firm’s recommendation to close Ad Astra Pool near 83rd Street and Maurer Road. Instead, council members committed to maintaining an aquatics facility at that location.
The June 15 action was a victory for residents who had mounted an online petition in 2019 after an earlier attempt to close the pool, won a reprieve and continued to advocate for Ad Astra as the city scoped out an aquatics strategy for the future.
Ad Astra had been targeted for closure because of its poor condition and high cost to renovate; stability issues on the site; a lack of visibility, access and room to expand; and its distance of only a mile to Indian Trails Aquatic Center, which is centrally located in Lenexa’s most densely populated area.
The Save Ad Astra Pool Coalition quickly released a statement thanking the council members, including some who had seemed to favor the closure, for apparently being persuaded by the emails that residents had sent.
“Our coalition, comprised of people throughout Lenexa, is committed to advocating for a pool facility that continues what has worked about Ad Astra Pool while making significant improvements that will make it a highlight of our neighborhood for decades to come,” the statement said. “Whether that is a total rebuild or a significant remodel, time will tell.”
Meanwhile, council members endorsed another key recommendation: to upgrade the Indian Trails Aquatic Center — at 8801 Greenway Lane in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park — into a modern, community-wide aquatics center with an appropriate mix of amenities. The consulting firm, Waters Edge Aquatic Design, said comparable facilities include Black Bob Bay in Olathe and the Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center in Shawnee.
“Constructing a more inclusive, regional facility would allow for more amenities to be constructed at a larger scale, making the facility more attractive for higher attendance and revenue,” the study said.
Lenexa currently has three outdoor pools: Ad Astra and Indian Trails, which are nearing the end of their useful life, and Flat Rock Creek at 103rd and Hauser streets, which is in good condition after being renovated in 2012. All are east of Interstate 435.
Consultants said revenue from the outdoor pools recover just over 60% of operating cost, when at least 80% would be expected. They blamed lack of community interest stemming from the lack of modern amenities, and the large area of water surface that must be maintained.
The firm recommended that Flat Rock Creek continue to operate through its useful life but that Ad Astra close once the Indian Trails renovation is completed. Instead, the council asked the city staff to develop recommendations for maintaining some type of pool facility on the Ad Astra site.
As part of the study, community engagement found roughly equal support for two different approaches to outdoor aquatics: to offer smaller facilities in more locations with fewer amenities — or fewer facilities with more amenities. Amenities desired by residents included a lazy river, rebuilding a diving well, lap lanes, play features, shade and other comfort features.
“It’s very clear that Lenexans value and strongly support water recreation opportunities,” Parks and Recreation Director Logan Wagler said in a news release. “We are eager to incorporate their ideas in future designs for improving Lenexa’s pools.”
City leaders will make budgeting decisions about the pools later this year. After budgets and timelines are determined, citizens will be consulted again during the design process.
Shawnee gives fire engine to tiny town
On July 2, Shawnee firefighters plan to deliver a surplus fire engine to Lewis, Kansas, a town of fewer than 500 in the southwest part of the state.
In a memo, Shawnee Fire Chief Rick Potter said Lewis was “in desperate need” of new equipment. “According to the Lewis Fire Chief, the current apparatus leaks water so badly they cannot keep it in a ready state,” Potter wrote.
Shawnee recently replaced the 1998 engine, which holds 1,000 gallons of water and is valued between $8,000 and $12,000. The City Council authorized the donation on June 14.
Another option was to give the vehicle to Kansas City, Kansas Community College for firefighter training, but Shawnee staffers decided the donation would make more impact for the Lewis Volunteer Fire Department, which wants to replace a 1975 pumper and its rusted-out tank.
Fourth of July events
COVID-19 all but erased Fourth of July traditions in 2020, but many Johnson County communities are emerging from the pandemic with outdoor activities and the potential of large crowds. Here’s a sampling:
▪ Overland Park: The city’s Star Spangled Spectacular will take place on July 4, but without entertainment or sales of food and drink in the early evening. The fireworks show will begin about 9:45 p.m. at Corporate Woods Founders’ Park, 9711 W. 109th St. The rain date is July 5. Families can also enjoy old-fashioned activities and a bike parade between 9 a.m. and noon at the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Road. Those events are free with a farmstead admission.
▪ Lenexa: The family friendly Lenexa Freedom Run starts at 7 a.m. July 3 through Old Town. Registration is $30 through July 2 and $35 on race day. Then, at 10 a.m. July 3, residents can dress up their animals for the Pawtriotic Pet Parade at the Lenexa Public Market, 8750 Penrose Lane in City Center. Activities last from 9 to 11 a.m. From July 2-4, residences and businesses throughout the city will be decorated for the Community Days Porch Parade.
▪ Olathe: The city’s free fireworks display will begin around 9:45 p.m. July 4 at the College Boulevard Activity Center, 11031 South Valley Parkway. Restrooms and handwashing stations will be available there and at the Meadow Lane Elementary and Olathe Northwest parking lots. Visitors can celebrate 1860s style from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. July 3 with an admission to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm, 1200 E. Kansas City Road.
▪ Gardner: Country music will highlight Gardner’s Independence Day Festival, which returns at 4 p.m. July 4 to Celebration Park, 32501 W. 159th St. Headliners are Dylan Scott and rising star Coffey Anderson. Other performers include the Big Time Grain Company and Whitney Duncan. The free event also features food trucks, kids’ activities and fireworks at 10 p.m.
▪ Prairie Village: The city’s traditional celebration is expected to return in 2022, but a drive-thru VillageFest To Go will happen from 10 a.m. to noon on July 4 this year. Residents can decorate their cars and parade through the municipal campus, 7700 Mission Road, to see emergency and public works vehicles. Each child over 2 will receive a bag of goodies while supplies last.
▪ Edgerton: The Community Picnic and Fireworks Show returns to Martin Creek Park, 20200 Sunflower Road, on July 3, with gates opening at 5 p.m., the picnic at 6 and fireworks about 9:45. Free food and T-shirts for the first 500 people.
▪ Shawnee: The Freedom Fling runs from 12:30 to 5 p.m. July 4 at the Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center, 13805 Johnson Drive. Each pool will have games every hour starting at 1 p.m., with a soda pop drop at 2. Free with a season pass or half price with a canned food donation.
▪ Merriam: Visitors can view Flags 4 Freedom starting June 26. To keep volunteers safe from COVID-19, this year’s flag display is limited to the Merriam Marketplace, 5740 Merriam Drive. The flags come down at 10 a.m. July 10.
Grace period ending on driver’s licenses
During the coronavirus pandemic, Kansas allowed residents to wait to renew their driver’s licenses or state ID cards, but now’s the time to catch up.
June 30 is the renewal deadline for those whose credentials expired between March 12, 2020, and March 30, 2021. As of June 1, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue, about 45,000 Kansas still needed to renew.
New Antioch library
Planners want to hear from the public about the new Antioch Library, which will relocate next to the Merriam Community Center at 6040 Slater St.
Architects and planners will meet with the public from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 30 at the new library site to share progress thus far and take feedback.
The current library, which dates to 1956, is at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch Road. Construction on the new branch will start next year once the design is finalized, with completion in 2023.
Trumpeter wins national contest
Chris Petrella, an incoming junior at Shawnee Mission South High School, took first place in the High School Solo Division of the 2021 National Trumpet Competition, considered the premier trumpet competition in the United States.
Forty soloists were selected for the semi-final round, and three advanced to the finals.
“All of the finalists are amazing trumpet players,” Shawnee Mission South band director Steve Adams said in a news release. “However, Chris has an incredible balance of technical control of the instrument and maturity in his musicality. I believe it was Chris’s maturity on very challenging musical material that ultimately brought him to the top.”
Petrella began playing the trumpet in fifth grade and likes the instrument for its expressiveness: both powerful and gentle. Petrella’s winning performance of “Concertino” by André Jolivet can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=Ss1GQcrkZ-o.
Olathe street lights getting ‘smarter’
If a street light quits working in Olathe, officials often are unaware until someone reports the outage. But that’s changing, since the city began installing new cellular nodes on street lights this spring.
The first “smart” nodes are in downtown Olathe along Park and Cherry streets and around the parking garage, according to the city’s most recent newsletter.
With almost instant knowledge of an outage, the city said, crews can make repairs more quickly and efficiently.
“Remote dimming or darkening of non-essential lights is possible when elective conservation is needed,” the newsletter said. “In addition to the increased efficiencies for maintenance, remote streetlight dimming will be possible in the downtown area for special events, such as Fourth Fridays and Johnson County Old Settlers.”
The equipment eventually could be useful for traffic counts, too.
Blue Valley administrator takes Lee’s Summit job
Brett D. Potts, who has been principal at Blue Valley West High School since 2013, will become the Lee’s Summit School District’s assistant superintendent of secondary education on July 1.
Potts was the Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2005.
A Blue Valley district spokeswoman said Potts had been scheduled to take a central office position so his successor at Blue Valley West, Katie Bonnema, was announced in the spring. Bonnema has been an assistant principal in the district and most recently was the director of career ready programs for Blue Valley.