G'view aquatic center back on drawing board

GRANDVIEW - The times are changing and the Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board is taking a fresh look at building an aquatic center in the community.

The board met Thursday night in the Grandview City Council chamber room to discuss moving forward with a campaign to build a new multi-faceted pool facility.

With the outdated and deteriorating pool facility in Grandview, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter explained that the city began looking at building a new pool in the late 1990s. The Grandview Park and Recreation Service Area Board revisited the original plan as they discussed the possibility of going to the voters with a vote in favor of a new pool.

Looking at pools in Milton Freewater, Pendleton and Moses Lake, Carpenter said a plan was developed in the late 1990s for a new state of the art aquatic center that includes slides, a lap pool section for swim team and a zero depth portion of the pool.

According to Carpenter, studies have shown that the lap pools similar to the current city pool do not make money, but zero depth pools do. The pool at the proposed aquatic center would be both.

A zero depth pool, Carpenter said, is a shallower pool which is similar to walking in the ocean. He said it is a pool that draws young mothers, as well kids wanting to cool off in the water. The original pool design also had water features that spray and spit water for kids to play in, said Carpenter. It also had a multi-purpose room, a concessions stand and an indoor lap pool that could potentially be open year-round.

"Based on what we've seen, we like the aquatic center idea," said Dave Copeland, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Service Area Board.

But, Grandview resident Jack Mariotti questioned whether the city should push for such a large facility.

"This is really a first class outfit. I can see this going up in Richland, but not working here," he said.

He said the city could just as easily do as Naches did and build a nice, but smaller pool that would serve the community. He said he feels an aquatic center in Grandview, a town of nearly 9,000 people, wouldn't attract the numbers the Parks and Recreation Service Area Board is hoping for.

According to Grandview City Manager Jim Sewell, there are 54,000 people living within 16 miles of Grandview and 42,000 within eight miles of the community.

Copeland said Grandview needs to build a facility that keeps people there for the day and wanting to go back the next day.

The aquatic center plan that was developed for Grandview by Susan Black of TSE, an architectural firm that has built numerous pools around the state, has been laid out to fit in Euclid Park, located at the corner of Euclid and West Second streets.

The original project has an estimated value of $5.9 million.

After an intensive campaign the aquatic center was turned down with a vote of 1,421 people voting against the facility and 1,377 voting in favor. A super-majority, or 60 percent of the voters, had to vote in favor of the pool for the project to pass. According to Copeland, on 326 of the ballots voters didn't vote either way. Voters affected by the vote are those living within the Grandview School District, with the exception of the few who live in Benton County.

Conditions weren't favorable at the time, according to Copeland, who listed processing plants closing and declining agricultural conditions as part of the reason the aquatic center was put on hold until now.

One major change that makes the climate more favorable is the addition of the Wal-Mart distribution center, which added about $30 million in assessed value to the city.

"There has been a huge infusion into the tax base," said Sewell.

There has been a 40 cent per $1,000 of assessed value reduction from schools taxes with even more expected next year. The utility tax is expected to drop next year and with more construction on the horizon Sewell said the addition of 100 new homes over the next five years could easily increase assessed value in the city by $10 million.

Grandview Mayor Mike Bren, who attended Thursday's meeting, said that the pool could easily come in at the same time the taxes are reduced, making it so residents see no significant difference in their taxes.

He said pool proponents should encourage votes for the pool by asking voters to keep their taxes the same and in return would get an aquatic center.

"What's wrong with breaking even, but having a new pool in town?," asked Bren.

Yakima County Commissioner and Grandview resident Jesse Palacios said he feels like the city should push forward and ask voters to support the aquatic center.

"If you want to build a community, you have to go for it," said Palacios. "I don't think we should stop with an aquatic center. There are other quality of life issues that need to be addressed. We can't just sit on our hands."

Another benefit to building a new pool is that currently the city is subsidizing the pool to the tune of $55,000 a year, said Sewell.

In Milton Freewater, the city subsidizes the pool for $27,000 and Moses Lake is making money, he said.

"That's a savings to taxpayers," Sewell said.

He added that stepping out, taking a chance and building facilities like an aquatic center increases the likelihood that new businesses will locate in a community.

The next step is to get an updated cost estimate for the aquatic center. Members of the Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board said they were open to potentially down-sizing the project if needed, but the current plan gives them someplace to start.

"We don't see ourselves as a commercial hub," said Bren, "We see ourselves as a good place to live."

He added that building a pool for the next three generations would be a way to improve the quality of life for Grandview residents.

Also on the Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board are Justin Christensen and Dan Churchill.


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