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Rock River Rapids sees attendance increase in 2018

Over 5,000 more attendees in the summer season made for a positive Rock River Rapids Report at the Nov. 13 Derby Recreation Commission Meeting.

The increase in numbers led to $651,581 in revenue from January-September 2018. Paired with a significant drop in utility expenses and Rock River Rapids pocketed $103,730 for its season.

DRC aquatics program coordinator Donita Grinde-Houtman said an increase in pass sales came during the 10-percent campaign, which runs January 2 through May 31.

“The first few days we were open, we heard a lot of guests share how grateful they were that the [campaign] was extended and they were very appreciative,” she added.

Grinde-Houtman said warmer weather played a key role, having an average temperature of 91 degrees from May through August. The biggest spike was an eight-degree increase from May 2017 and 2018.

Grinde-Houtman said she credited a hike in marketing efforts with the growth in Otter Parties. There was an over $10,000 increase from last summer ($13,234) to this past season ($23,492).

Chemical costs increased due to a few factors, according to the DRC aquatics program coordinator. The staff lowered the cyanuric acid to meet updated CDC guidelines. Chlorine was used more heavily to comply with those measures.

In the report, Grinde-Houtman highlighted additions to RRR, including an additional water bottle filling station next to the lockers between the lap pool and concessions. There was also a software update for facility management that helped streamline online class registration and give better client access.

Grinde-Houtman said they were pleased to host 809 guests in the two “Slide and Dive” movie events. For $5, customers were able to swim in the park from 7:00 p.m. until the beginning of the movie at 9:00 p.m.

It was also announced at the World Water Park Conference in Las Vegas that RRR is one of only nine water parks in the country that has participated in the Guinness Book of World Records “Largest Swim Lesson” since it began in 2010.

Sales tax dispute settled

Attorneys for the city of Derby and the Kansas Department of Revenue have reached an agreement on terms to settle a dispute over how the state has been distributing revenues from the half-cent Derby Difference sales and use tax.

The parties filed a request Nov. 15 in Shawnee County District Court for a consent judgment and final order to ensure the state begins in December 2018 to remit all revenues collected from the Derby tax to the city instead of remitting a considerable portion to Sedgwick County.

In 2013, the 0.5 percent tax was approved by Derby voters to make park improvements and to supplement operations of the library and fire and rescue department.

In late 2015, Derby officials learned that the state had implemented an automated system that distributed a portion of Derby’s tax revenues from certain vehicle sales to the county.

In 2016, Derby pointed out the error to KDOR, but after receiving no relief, turned to the judicial system for interpretation and enforcement of the law.

After a Shawnee County District Court judge dismissed Derby’s petition on jurisdictional grounds, Derby appealed the ruling.

In 2017, Goddard and Haysville joined Derby in an unsuccessful mandamus petition to the Kansas Supreme Court because they, too, were adversely affected by the tax distribution system.

In August 2018, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in Derby’s favor and sent the case back to Shawnee County District Court for a ruling on the merits.

“All we have ever sought was to be treated fairly by the state and to restore confidence to citizens who voted for a tax to improve their community,” said City Manager Kathy Sexton. “More than just a financial matter, this is about Kansans being able to trust their state officials to follow the law as written and as intended by the Kansas Legislature years ago.”

The issue was brought to Derby’s attention by a resident who questioned whether the city was receiving the full benefit of its voter-approved local tax after noting the discrepancy on her vehicle registration receipt.

If a Derby resident buys a vehicle in Wichita, state and county sales tax is collected at that dealership.

However, state law requires Derby’s local sales tax to be collected when the vehicle is later registered to a Derby address. It also states that the tax be remitted to Derby, but two-thirds of that revenue was being sent to the county.

Plat for Hubbard Arts Center approved

The proposed Hubbard Arts Center took another step forward. At its Nov. 15 meeting, the Derby Planning Commission approved a new plat of the property. That was necessary to facilitate the transfer of ownership of the proposed center to the city.

The center will be on the north side of the Derby Historical Museum and will house the Derby Recreation Commission arts and education programs as well as its summer day camp and day camps during planned school closings.

It also will feature a demonstration kitchen where people will be able to take classes about healthy cooking.

The center, on the northwest corner of Woodlawn Blvd. and East Market, was the former Sixth Grade Center cafeteria, kitchen and classrooms. The facility is named after former Derby resident and Superintendent of Schools Charlie Hubbard, who recently passed away.

DRC director Chris Drum, who was at the meeting, is excited about the progress.

“We’re really going to be utilizing the facility to its maximum potential,” he said.

Most of the plans are designed for the facility. The commission worked with SJCF Architecture of Wichita on the 20,000-square-foot design.

The remodeling construction should take about 10 months, he said.

That should get going in the later winter or early spring, after about $2 million in bonds are issued to finance it. The DRC can’t issue bonds, so the city, which legally can do that, will issue them.

Earlier this year, it was thought that the center would be further along than it is, but the legal and platting work took some time to get done.

Last summer, the DRC used El Paso Elementary School for its summer program and is working on another, new location for the 2019 summer session.

Drum said classes and programming will start soon after the new center is open.

And it won’t be just for youth, as it will have adult offerings, too, including fitness programming.

The DRC will be paying for the debt during a 10-year period using its current levy.

Officials say the arrangement is the best for all three parties involved: the DRC, the city and the museum.

The Hubbard Arts Center will be a 20,000-square-foot facility on this site. It has been designed by SJCF Architecture of Wichita and should be ready for use late next year.