Capital Living is a big supporter of Frankfort becoming the best community that it can be for our families to live, work and play in. It also needs to become a destination to those looking for something different to do on those “one tank trips”. In that spirit, we are posting this Op Ed to Capital Living to shine a spotlight on a project that was proposed over two years ago. It’s heard over and over again in Frankfort that “there’s nothing to do here”. This project is a step in the right direction. This is a great community. We just need to move forward Frankfort!
Submitted to Capital Living
Swim Play Frankfort (SPF) began over two and a half years ago, not as a solution to our dilapidated pool issues or the lack of recreational facilities, but as a response to the perfect storm of lost jobs and population decreases that has been brewing over our community during the past decade. Frankfort is blessed with being the Capital of Kentucky. It can boast of a quaint historical downtown, the scenery of the Kentucky River, a bustling interstate with two interchanges, as well as a publicly supported university. Even with these rare commodities, Frankfort has not seen the same level of prosperity that has been evident in communities with similar pedigrees.
Our population has been stagnant for years, but even more alarming is the fact that our population is rapidly aging. Our population under the age of 18 is less than the Kentucky average while our elderly over the age of 65 is growing much faster than the rest of the state. The US Census shows that of seven contiguous counties, Franklin County is projected to grow the slowest, at a rate of 3.7% from 2010 to 2025. Our surrounding counties (Scott, Shelby, Owen, Anderson, Woodford and Henry), over the same time period, are projected to grow at the following respective rates: 55%, 46%, 23.3%, 14.3%, 10.3% and 8.7%. In overall population, Scott passed Franklin in 2013 and Shelby will pass us within the next 18 months.
In addition to a stagnant population, our community must deal with approximately 15,000 workers that commute into Frankfort each work day. Commuters receive the benefit of our community’s resources in the form of the infrastructure required to move them around and to supply them with utilities and services while they are here. We must build infrastructure whose capacity is 30 times greater than what would be required for just the residents. The occupational taxes they pay only cover a fraction of those infrastructure costs and we lose out on potential property taxes by being solely a commuting destination.
Another problem for Franklin County is the fact that in 2012 state government owned over 3,000 acres with a value of $1 billion. This land is exempt from local property taxes at a cost of $5 million dollars a year to our community. That acreage is also exempt from school taxes with an annual cost of over $7 million to the detriment of our local schools and children.
Our vision was to create an extraordinary breakthrough event that would attract young families to our community as well as contribute to the quality of life for our citizens. We thought about how we invigorate our community in a way that would not only bring excitement and events to Franklin County but one that would enable our residents to stop driving to neighboring counties for youth sporting activities.
Our goal was to build SPF as a first step to reinvigorating our community. We envisioned taking City dollars, pair them with funds from the County, and then begin discussions with the State for the rest of the funding for the project. We brought in experts to design a building that would meet our needs with the only constraint being that it could not exceed 25 million dollars. Experts also estimated what the economic impact of the project would be to the community if you included direct, indirect and induced dollars, as well as jobs and taxes over a 20 year time period. We called others that had facilities of similar size to find out what the true operating expenses and income streams could be. We found a location that would cost the taxpayers nothing since the City owned the land. We worked hard for years on a volunteer basis. We had over $800,000 of pro bono work donated by entities that understood that this project would be a game changing enterprise. Our goal was to lay the ground work that would enable our local elected officials to pick up our idea and push for the necessary changes to make this project a reality.
Sadly, the discussion surrounding Swim Play Frankfort turned into, “Why spend $25 million on a sports complex?” We believe that Swim Play Frankfort is much more than just a sports complex. It was about creating a breakthrough civic project that would ignite the positive development of our community and lead to an improved quality of life for our citizens. It was a plan for Frankfort to work together and dream BIG to reinvigorate our Capital City.
There will be a joint meeting of city and county officials on Monday, February 3rd at 2 pm at the Paul Sawyier Public Library meeting room. After several attempts, a discussion item that has been added to their agenda is “discussion of indoor/outdoor rec facilities”. City Commissioner Katie Hedden posted this information on Facebook and added, “I’m gonna keep pushin Frankfort/Franklin county. Let’s do this together!!!!!”
“It’s time Frankfort!!!!”
If you agree, perhaps it’s time to stop complaining about what there isn’t to do in Frankfort, and step up and let your voice be heard to help make that change!