$13.8 Million Parks Bond Proposal: Voters Decide Today

November 4, 2008

Election Day is here, and voters will tell the City of West U. if they support the $13.8 million parks bond referendum that appears on the ballot. A $25 million bond referendum in 2006 failed with 44 percent voting for the bond, 56 percent against.

“The difference between this bond election and the last one is we have done a better job of communicating what we are doing and why we are doing it,” said Councilman Bob Fry during a fall council meeting. “I want to compliment the (parks) subcommittee – I think that’s going to be the difference this time around.”

The original estimate for the new plans for the Colonial Park Pool and the West U. Recreation Center came in at just under $15 million, but the parks subcommittee went back to the drawing board after an early June workshop, eventually presenting to the Parks and Recreation Board the current $13.8 million plan. The plan was approved by a 7-1 vote of the parks board.

The revised plans include a new building a pool at the community center and a new building and pool at the Rec. Center. Colonial Park proposals include decreasing the building from 6,000 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft., increasing the size of the pool from 4,000 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft. and using it as an outdoor-only pool. The pool would be focused on family oriented swimming, with a zero-depth entrance and a splash area for infants and toddlers.

The Rec. Center proposal includes building a 20,800 sq. ft. building to replace the aging 17,500 sq. ft. building. The Rec. Center pool, aimed at instructional, fitness and swim meet purposes, would be in a building in which the sides could be pulled up during warm months, with the pool remaining covered year round. The Colonial Park racquetball courts, weight room and cardio studio would be moved to the Rec. Center, which allows for the smaller Colonial Park building.

The parks subcommittee pared down the cost of their initial recommendation in June by keeping the diving boards at the Colonial Park pool in response to resident feedback, which eliminated a $600,000 cost from the Rec. Center proposal. The final proposal for the Rec. Center was also trimmed by 1,500 sq. ft., lowering the estimate by $200,000. An additional $300,000 was eliminated by not including the field area at the Rec. Center in the furnishings estimate.

Councilman Michael Talianchich has historically opposed the bond, including the idea of a new building at the Rec. Center, citing a need for green space, overzealous spending and what he perceives as a lack of support for a new Rec. Center from the community. Talianchich requested at several meetings that a $5 million proposal also be on the ballot. Talianchich has also suggested that the cost to the taxpayer will be higher than estimates, and at last week’s council meeting suggested issues in today’s economy could cause property values to fall.

City Finance Director Walter Thomas previously presented council with tax estimates for $5 million, $10 million and $15 million in bonds. If a bond election passed for $15 million, it is estimated that residents will pay an additional $84 a year through 2013, at which point the taxes will continue to decrease through 2019 as property values increase and the city retires infrastructure replacement debt. Taxes for a $600,000 home in 2009 are estimated at 0.1940, and are estimated to drop to 0.1678 by 2019.

Two specific-purpose political action committees filed with the city leading up to the election, Citizens for Responsible Spending for Better Parks and Yes for West U. Parks., the former against the bond, the later supporting it.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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