Talianchich Tells Council He Will Oppose Bonds Without Additional Survey

June 4, 2008

West University Place City Councilman Michael Talianchich told council tonight that if the city does not perform a new survey of residents that includes options for Colonial Park and the West U. Recreation Center renovations, he will work towards making the November bond election fail.

Council met in a special session tonight to discuss the plans for the two parks, and begin the process that will ultimately lead to the final proposal residents will see in the bond election.

Talianchich said there is a basic disagreement between his interpretation of the original resident survey and the rest of council’s interpretation. He wants to see a survey sent out to residents that includes versions of the plans at varying costs.

“I didn’t join council because I was happy with the previous council,” said Talianchich. “I do want to express the other side. I am the only one expressing the other side and I will continue to do that. I will be representing the other side until the end, unless we do another survey. If we don’t do that I will be working very hard to fail it (the bond election).”

Councilwoman Phyllis Cohen commented earlier in the meeting that Talianchich was the only council member lobbying his individual opinion.

“Many decisions have not been unanimous, but I don’t think you see other people out lobbying individually, not respecting the consensus of the group,” said Cohen.

“Whatever you intend to do, I think you ought to weigh it very carefully,” said Mayor Bob Kelly.

The meeting included a comprehensive overview of the plans presented to council by the Parks Master Plan subcommittee previously. The 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 22,300 sq. ft. building to replace the aging 17,500 sq. ft. building. The building would have a second story covering about half of the first story. Council discussed building in a way to make expansion of the second floor an option in the future.

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

Staff recommended that city programs remain open to non-residents at a higher fee, but the pools be available only to residents for the first few swimming seasons to avoid residents being turned away due to capacity while non-residents are swimming. The issue could then be revisited by council. Parks Director Tim O’Conner told council that many classes offered by the city would be cancelled if non-residents were not allowed to participate, as there are not always enough residents participating to make the classes financially viable.

Talianchich suggested closing all classes to non-residents, and using volunteers to teach. O’Conner indicated that insurance issues made that idea unfeasible.

City Finance Director Walter Thomas presented council with tax estimates for $5 million, $10 million and $15 million in bonds. If the bond election passes 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.

Talianchich suggested that the Colonial Park plan and the Rec. Center plan be presented to the voters separately, calling the Colonial Park plan a “shoe-in,” but indicating that he believes the Rec. Center plan could cause the bond election to fail. Discussion among other council members and Parks and Recreation representatives indicated that the two had to pass as a package, due to the moving of programs and facilities between the two.

“It’s like a puzzle,” said Kelly. “It seems chaotic to do it that way. I think it’s just the logical way it has to be done.”

Requests for additional information in certain areas were made, and the session ended with many council members expressing appreciation for the work of the boards, committees and residents on the proposals.

“I honestly believe that this is a very exciting thing that has fallen into our laps,” said Kelly. “It is a real honor to be in this position, to find out what the citizens want…and to affect the quality of life in West U. My goal is that we hang together the best we can, and arrive at a consensus.”

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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