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G'view voters reject aquatic center proposal

GRANDVIEW - When it comes to bond measures for aquatic centers, it is not uncommon for voters to deny the passage of such issues one, two or even three times, according to Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Board Chairman Dave Copeland. If that's the case, then Grandview took another step in the process yesterday, voting down the aquatic center proposal for the second time in five years.

Tuesday, Grandview voters took to the polls to decide the fate of a $6.8 million family aquatic center to be located in Euclid Park. According to the Yakima County Auditor's Office, Grandview voters defeated the bond request with nearly 71 percent, or 1,214 people, voting against it and 28 percent, or 477 people, voting for the aquatic center proposal.

Copeland said this morning (Wednesday) that he expected the vote to be closer. In 2000, when the family aquatic center proposal was first brought to voters, Copeland noted that although the measure was defeated, supporters of the center garnered a simple majority of the votes cast. He explained that a super majority (60 percent) is needed to pass a bond measure, like the one proposed for the aquatic center.

It was the fact the original vote five years ago was so close that made the local service area board decide it was headed in the right direction, and encouraged them to move forward with the proposal.

Copeland explained that in talking to other communities who have successfully built family aquatic centers, it is not unusual for it to take several tries before a bond measure is approved by voters. He said in other communities every time the proposal was put in front of voters it was whittled down a bit, as those organizing the effort tried to pinpoint what citizens were looking for in a swimming pool facility.

"We were hoping for at least another close vote," Copeland said. He noted that a close vote would have let the board know they were still on the right path with the project.

Instead, the overwhelming defeat of the proposal leaves Copeland and other members of the board scratching their head.

Copeland said it's hard to tell if it was the project itself that voters were opposed to or if it's just the climate of the economy that led the proposal to be rejected. He pointed to the Prosser school bond that was defeated by similar numbers Tuesday, noting that seeing that issue be voted down in much the same way leads him to believe it might be more the climate of the economy than the project itself that caused voters to defeat the proposal.

Grandview City Councilwoman Helen Darr, who vocally opposed the aquatic center proposal, said she wasn't necessarily surprised to see the proposal fail, but she was a little surprised by the degree to which it was voted down.

She added that after vocalizing her opposition to the aquatic center proposal, which she noted she didn't support because of where the facility was going to be located, she was surprised by the amount of support she received from the community and the number of people who felt the same way she did.

Darr said she is not against putting in a new swimming pool, and hopes that maybe a smaller proposal can be put together.

Copeland said for him the biggest disappointment the defeat of the measure brings with it is the financial side of the project. He explained that with interest rates being so low it was an ideal time to pass a bond measure. Copeland said if the board decides to come back to voters with another proposal in a few years it will more then likely end up costing community members more than it would have if the measure had been passed yesterday.

At this point, Copeland said the next step in the process is for the service area board to reconvene, discuss what happened and decide what to do next. He said the group will also go back to the city council to see which direction it would like to see the board go. Copeland said there are several options on the table that include mothballing the project or deciding to run the proposal by voters again.

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