Student Government hosted “Summer in Kirksville” on April 17, where assistant city manager Ashley Young spoke to Truman State University students about opportunities for recreation, entertainment and work in Kirksville during the summer.
In addition, Young talked about the projects completed in Kirksville since the half-cent sales tax for the Kirksville Parks and Recreation Department passed in April 2017.
Freshman Adam Paris, Student Government voting senator, said Student Government brought Young to Truman to help increase interest in Kirksville and widen the knowledge of the half-cent sales tax’s purpose.
Paris said although he went to the event to learn about job opportunities, he got a good idea of other activities available in Kirksville throughout the summer.
Senior Sarah Holtmeyer, Student Government vice president, said the External Affairs Committee worked with Young on the half-cent sales tax last year.
Holtmeyer said People for Better Parks were present at a Student Government meeting to explain what the half-cent sales tax does.
“We wrote a resolution encouraging students to vote ‘Yes’ on the half-cent sales tax because it would increase revenue to make different repairs around the city,” Holtmeyer said.
Young said a couple of the measures used to indicate success and economic growth within Kirksville are population and sales tax.
Young said the city government thinks there has been a significant increase in Kirksville’s population during the last few years, largely because of the addition of the Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health at A.T. Still University and an influx of immigrants from Central Africa. He said the population is the highest it has ever been.
“We’re very confident that our population, for the first time ever, has gone over 18,000 people, and we’ll see in the 2020 census what that number actually is,” Young said.
Young said the sales tax is also higher than it has ever been. He said the half-cent sales tax only goes to support the Parks and Recreation Department.
Young said before the passage of the sales tax, the Parks and Recreation Department was supported by the city’s general fund. He said since passing the sales tax the Parks and Recreation Department no longer needed money from the general fund to operate.
“The council decided to take those dollars that had previously gone to support the Parks and Recreation Department and instead direct them toward the Kirksville Police Department,” Young said. “So really the passing of the half-cent sales tax not only improved the park system and will continue to make Kirksville a better place through improvement and recreational opportunities, but also created a safer community by putting more officers on the streets and drawing support for our police department.”
Young said the first accomplishment upon passing the sales tax was the hiring of a new Parks and Recreation Director, Rodney Sadler. He said after Sadler was hired, the planning for the new Aquatic Center and community center began.
Young said the City Council approved an agreement with SFS Architecture out of Kansas City, Missouri, to help manage the project.
Young said while the Aquatic Center is the largest project currently in the works, there are many other improvements being made around the city.
Young said some of the things that were completed last year were a new Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalk in Brashear Park, a resurfacing of the tennis courts in Patryla Park and re-roofing the park shelters with a more durable material.
Young said it is difficult to predict what projects will be completed in the future because the plans will change as the community’s needs change. He said one of the things many citizens have said they would like is additional lights for ball fields at the North Park Complex.
Young said he thinks all of the improvements will bring Kirksville into the modern era and put it on equal footing with cities of similar size.
“Communities across the country are basically in an arms race to build the most attractive, enjoyable and safest communities they can to attract the talent and the workforce of tomorrow so that we can attract the business and industry necessary to not just survive, but thrive in the future,” Young said.