GRANDVIEW - For more than a week, members of the Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board have been pounding the pavement, visiting with different groups to get feedback on the proposed plans for a family aquatics center.
Wednesday afternoon, Grandview Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter took time to talk about the proposed facility with a group of about a dozen senior citizens at the Carl L. Stevens Senior Center.
"I best describe [a family aquatics center] as wholesome fun for all ages," Carpenter told the group.
He said the facility is something that will offer people a variety of things to do, as well as something that will make people want to come back to the facility time and time again. He noted that plans for the facility include everything from water slides to a zero-depth pool. Carpenter explained that a zero-depth pool is a pool that starts at the same level as the deck and gradually slopes down into the water.
"That way you can walk into the pool facility without having to worry about falling down," Carpenter said.
He added that the zero-depth pool would also be nice for young children. Carpenter said the city's municipal pool currently has the deepest shallow end in the Yakima Valley. He said during swimming lessons with younger children, the lifeguards end up spending more time life guarding than instructing because of the deep water.
Carpenter said in 2000, which was the first time the idea of an aquatic center was brought to voters, the proposed facility rang up at $5.9 million. He said at the time the center was going to include an outdoor pool facility, a multi-purpose room and an indoor swimming pool.
According to Carpenter, the board feels the reason the proposal didn't pass is because the public thought it was too aggressive a project. He added that a downturn in the local economy and the fact that the proposal was the last item on a very busy general election ballot may have also contributed to the measure's failure. Carpenter noted that more than 200 ballots were returned with no vote cast for the aquatic center proposal.
"We think maybe some people didn't see it there," Carpenter said.
He told those in attendance the service area board reconvened in spring 2004 to begin talking about revisiting the aquatic center proposal. Carpenter said at this point the board is working to gain community input on the facility, which will culminate in a community workshop on the topic, set to take place Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Carl L. Stevens Senior Center.
He said during the workshop the board will pass a resolution to place the aquatic center proposal on the May special election ballot.
Carpenter said the board is in the process of deciding which of three configuration options will be placed on the ballot this spring. He said one option is the same option voters were presented in 2000. It includes all of the outdoor components, the zero-depth pool, as well as water slides and a lap pool area, a multi-purpose room and an indoor lap pool.
"This is the most expensive consideration, but it is also the most comprehensive," Carpenter said.
This option is estimated to cost $6.9 million to construct, which would mean the property tax levy for the facility would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $9.07 a month for 20 years.
Carpenter said one of the uncertainties regarding this option is the cost of maintenance involved with the indoor portion of the project.
Another option is a pared back version of the aquatics center, which includes nothing more than a bath house and the zero-depth pool.
Carpenter said the board feels it is very difficult to support this option.
He said the facility wouldn't make it possible to support a swim team, and could put the city back in its current position. He explained that the city currently has to subsidize the city pool, paying anywhere from $35,000 to $55,000 a year to keep the facility operational.
The final option the board is bringing to the public falls between the two other options, offering a zero-depth pool, water slides and a 25-meter lap pool. This option eliminates the indoor swimming facility. The cost of this option is estimated at $5.2 million. If voters approve this option, the property tax levy would be $6.93 per month for 20 years for the owner of a $100,000 home.
After making his presentation at the senior center, Carpenter added there is a program through Yakima County that exempts seniors from paying property taxes if they meet several criteria.
Lloyd Smith, a retiree who attended the meeting, said the idea of an aquatics center is something that may appeal to the younger members of the community, but it doesn't appeal to him and his wife, Eva.
He noted that if the measure is passed by voters, regardless of which option makes the ballot, property taxes will be raised. He added that he will be paying for a facility he will likely never use.
Smith added that being retired, he and his wife live on a fixed income and although $9 a month may not sound like a lot to some people, it is a lot for many elderly people in the community.
"No, no it's no good at all and it never will be," Smith said of the proposal.
Eva did note that she can see the good behind the project, adding that it is something that would keep children out of mischief.
City Councilwoman Helen Darr asked Carpenter that instead of constructing an aquatics center at Euclid Park, why isn't work being done to improve or add onto the city's current pool facility. She noted that it is a question she has heard floating through the community.
Carpenter explained that the pool's current location makes it tough to add on to. He said the pool is bordered on one side by railroad tracks, on another by West Second Street and on another by a large underground canal that runs the length of Westside Park.
"It's landlocked," Carpenter said.
He added that the existing pool tank is currently in marginal condition, the bathhouse is out of date and the pumps have already been rebuilt once since the pool's mechanical room was renovated more than 10 years ago. Carpenter said in addition the pool deck is cracked and slippery.
The service area board has several more presentations planned.