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Gresham community center vote fails

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'I am disappointed that the community center measure didn't pass.' - Mayor Shane Bemis

COURTESY PHOTO - A preliminary design sketch shows what could have been. Election results show the majority of voters did not support a bond to fund a community center in downtown Gresham, with 20,982 voting no, or 56 percent, and 16,030 voting yes, or 43 percent.

"I am disappointed that the community center measure didn't pass," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, "but I am glad that we asked the question."

Ballot Measure 26-188 would have issued a $48 million bond to support the formation of a city of Gresham community center — with recreation, swimming and aquatic facilities. The cost would have represented $70 per year for someone with an assessed property value of $200,000, or $5.83 a month.

The $48 million was also an up-to cost, which means there would be opportunities to save money and not use the full amount of the bond if possible.

The proposed center would have been a 63,500-square-foot facility with a lap and leisure pool, rock climbing wall, gymnasium, senior center and multi-use classrooms. There were plans for a coffee shop and deli, conference rooms, children’s drop-in center, commercial kitchen, party rooms and a weight room.

Detractors said the costs would have been distributed to everyone, though only a few would have ever used the facility. According to national data aggregated by American Sports Data Incorporated, only 13 percent of the population makes use of community centers, private athletic clubs, YMCAs or studios.

Instead of funding a whole new facility, they suggest improving existing facilities at Mt. Hood Community College and some of the local high schools — all of which offer swim times for a small usage fee. But those wishing to use those pools have to contend with tight schedules that favor students, and a dedicated community center would provide access to the general public.

The community center could have also potentially competed alongside private clubs in the community, which offer many of the same services to members. Costs for these clubs mostly range between $10 and $20 dollars, with a few outliers offering more expensive prices.

"Ultimately, the question was left to the voters, who weighed the proposal against other urgent needs in their households," Bemis said. "I respect how difficult those decisions can be, and I remain confident that this community can work together to create the opportunities and amenities that our children, families and seniors deserve."

The city has previously said it will step back and reassess the proposal, perhaps exploring other options.

"We need to go back to the drawing board," said Gresham Councilor David Widmark. "Many people in the community, from families to seniors, have told me how important it would be."