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Planning for new aquatic center continues

GRANDVIEW - The compiled results of the nearly 300 surveys concerning a new aquatic center in Grandview proposal were reviewed by the Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board last night.

According to Grandview Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter, some of the most important services members of the community desire are swim lessons, open swim, family swim and parent-taught classes. Also scoring high was picnicking. Carpenter said the zero-depth portion of the pool, which would be a pool experience much like going to the ocean, was also looked upon positively by those surveyed, as were water slides and a competition pool tank. Also important to potential users is a playground area.

The surveys were collected over the summer to help the board focus on what the community would like to see in a new aquatic center. Carpenter said they received completed surveys from pool users, senior citizens, service club members and residents at-large.

According to the survey, of those surveyed at the swimming pool 122 people would vote in favor of a bond for a new pool. Four said they would not vote for an aquatic center and five were undecided, said Carpenter. Of the business persons who completed the survey, 15 said they would vote in favor of a bond to pay for the new aquatic center. One said they would not support the venture. Of the senior citizens who returned surveys, two said they would vote in favor of a new pool and two said they would vote against it. Ten of the surveys returned from service groups indicated they would vote in favor of the bond. Three service group members were undecided. Fifty-two members of the community at-large said they would support a bond for a new aquatic center and six said they would not vote in favor of the bond, said Carpenter.

"That's huge," said Grandview City Councilwoman Pam Horner, who sits on the board, speaking of the support that was indicated in the surveys.

Board chairman Dave Copeland said that a concern he has heard in recent days is where the playing fields will be located when the new aquatic center is built on what is now Euclid Park, which is located on the corner of Euclid Road and W. Second Street.

"We need to be very sensitive to the things that are being displaced at that park," said Copeland.

Currently there are two softball fields, tennis courts and soccer fields at the park, all of which are used on a regular basis.

Carpenter said that since 2000 the Grandview School District has developed two additional ball fields, which should meet the softball needs of the community. He added that there may be room at Country Park and Fairgrounds for a soccer field.

Carpenter said that working with the school district they may be able to find other fields that can be utilized for some of the sports programs.

Another concern Copeland has heard regards congestion in the area.

"I thought it was one of the better locations," Copeland added.

The board members agreed that with the traffic lights and widened streets the Euclid Park area is the best place for the aquatic center. He added that the location is also the most visible since anyone going to a middle school or high school ballgame in town has to pass by the park.

The park and rec service area board spent the majority of the meeting in a teleconference with engineers with TSE Architecture, Engineering and Planning discussing the direction of the pool campaign.

A date for the pool vote is still up in the air, but Carpenter hopes to nail down a time in a meeting with a campaign specialist Monday morning. The group is looking at holding the election in April, May or September of 2005. The board hopes to be on a ballot by itself. Copeland said that in 2000 they were part of the general election. 49 percent of the votes, or 1,377, were in favor of the pool. 51 percent, or 1,421, voted against the aquatic center. 326 ballots were blank, which Copeland believes is partly attributed to placement on the ballot.

The board shared a community update with the engineers explaining that since 2000, when the SPLASH committee first pushed for a swimming pool, there have been some major improvements to the community.

Besides the construction of new homes and two new schools, the community also has a large, new tax base in the Wal-Mart distribution center.

Copeland said that the new distribution center has already reduced the school levy impact by about 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

"There's another opportunity to lessen that with additional hiring," Copeland added.

He said that where the aquatic center bond in 2000 was for about $1.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, he expects that the new bond will be for less than $1 per $1,000.

Carpenter shared with the engineers the survey findings and said that in the most recent survey an indoor facility isn't as high of priority with the group polled.

Carpenter is also concerned about an indoor component since they tend to lose money. He said that the indoor Pullman facility costs about $300,000 to operate each year and only generates about $100,000 in revenue.

Copeland indicated that the aquatic center will be scaled back from the original facility proposed four years ago. He said there is a possibility to phase in other components, such as an indoor pool or extra slides.

In preparation for the campaign, the board has visited other aquatic centers in Eastern Washington and Oregon.

Board members discussed the possibility of finding grant funds to help with the development of the pool.

Carpenter said the only grant he is aware of is with the Interagency for Outdoor Recreation, but one of the requirements is to have an updated parks and recreation comprehensive plan, which the City of Grandview does not have.

"We don't have any budget at this time," said Carpenter of the parks and rec service area board.

The committee would also have to come up with a 50 percent match, which Horner suggested could be the city's donation to the park. TSE representative Jay Ruud said he will look into the possibility of finding the funds to develop a parks and rec plan for the city, which Carpenter said isn't much different than past comprehensive plans they have had.

Ruud also suggest they look at economic development grant opportunities to help fund the pool. He said that it is important to look at how an aquatic center will impact a city and a region.

He explained that aquatic centers draw visitors. The center in Pendleton draws rodeo attendees and those attending softball tournaments, said Ruud.

"It really is an enlivening of the city and economic development. It clearly is seen as an economic generator," he added.

Ruud added that the City of Naches was able to receive grant funding because their old swimming pool was not heated, which is the same for the Grandview pool.

Another possibility, said Copeland, is building a scaled back aquatic center and then having a catalogue with items members or businesses in the community can purchase for the center.

One woman in Ephrata signed a page of a catalogue purchasing a $250,000 slide for that community's aquatic center.

Copeland said Grandview could purchase one slide and make sure the infrastructure is ready in case someone wants to purchase the other one in the future.

"I think the people will buy something if they see value in it," said County Commissioner Jesse Palacios, who sits on the parks board. "They'll see value in it if it's not stripped down too much."

"We can't sell ourselves short, either," Carpenter added. "We've got to build something that's going to make money."

. Melissa Dekker can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail mdekker@eaglenewspapers.com

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