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City takes a plunge, puts pool on ballot

Voters will decide fate of $24 million bond measure


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Nancy King, co-chairwoman of the aquatic center task force, presented public testimony Monday in favor of putting the measure on the ballot.After nearly 40 years of debate, West Linn residents will finally be given the opportunity to vote on a proposed $24 million aquatic center this November.

The city council voted unanimously Monday to pass a resolution that officially puts a measure on the November ballot for voters to "approve the sale of bonds to construct, equip and furnish an aquatic and community center in an amount not exceeding $24 million."

Despite a handful of public testimonies opposing the measure, councilors remained steadfast in their belief that the matter should be decided by voters.

"There are councilors who support the measure and councilors who oppose it," Council President Mike Jones said. "But that's not the point anymore. The point is to allow the voters to vote after a pretty active decade of discussion and a very active three years."

The $24 million indoor recreation center would be located on city-owned property near Tanner Creek Park and house a pool with “aquatic park-like features” as well as a gym, running track, classrooms and fitness areas.

According to Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt, those plans are tentative in nature, and a full design would only be completed after voter approval.

Though the city was considering a $9 million outdoor aquatic park, polling conducted in April showed stronger support for the more lavish indoor facility, and city staff was instructed to draft a resolution to put it on the ballot.

The polling revealed a near 50-50 split between support and dissent, with those in the 18 to 44 age demographic and households with children showing the most favorable opinions. Only 35 percent of those in the age 65-plus demographic and 45 percent of homes without children were in favor of the proposal.

Monday's special meeting featured public testimony from a number of advocates both for and against the resolution. Nancy King, the co-chairwoman of the aquatic center task force, assured council members that every possible angle of the issue had been examined.

"Four decades of discussion, three years of intense study and debate with the task force — we really need to honor that," King said. "It's the community's time to decide."

Some community members had already made up their minds and thought the proposal was simply too costly to appear on a ballot. Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said the aquatic center would cost $152 per year on a home accessed at $285,000.

"I'm living in a city that has difficulty coming up with the money to pave the streets adequately," said resident Charles Seims. "We can't adequately provide for the schools, and we can't provide an adequate water system. ... It's better to put our tax money into something that provides for basic infrastructure, not what's essentially a non-necessity in the community."

Community advocate Alice Richmond also spoke out against the measure, saying there was a reason the matter never came to a vote in the four decades since it was originally discussed.

"It's a commodity," Richmond said. "Do not spend any more investments on things we don't need. ... Don't even spend the money to put it on the ballot."

The issue of "want" versus "need" was prevalent throughout the meeting. For some, like swim instructor Kim Hay, a local aquatic center was very much a need. Others weren't so sure that it was anything more than an expensive luxury.

Councilor Thomas Frank fell somewhere in the middle, and for that reason he supported the resolution.

"In this councilor's mind, this is clearly a 'want,'" Frank said. Yet he added, "Our parks are our strongest asset ... adding an aquatic center to our parks has the potential to further enhance the draw to our community."

For more information about the proposed aquatic park, visit westlinnoregon.gov/aquatic-community-center.




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