The Spokane City Council wants to study whether buying the YMCA building in Riverfront Park with Conservation Futures funds is the “highest and best use” of that money for the community. But that doesn’t mean the city is walking away from the proposal.
The council voted Monday night to order a study of the purchase, which is being proposed by Spokane County commissioners. If the study determines Conservation Futures restrictions make the plan to spend some $4.4 million of the funds a bad idea, the council is ready with backup plans, probably involving a loan from the city’s investment pool.
“We’re prepared to move forward,” Councilman Al French said. “We’re just trying to flesh out the details. We need to make sure the demolition of that building is the right course.”
Conservation Futures programs have restrictions on the kind of land that can be purchased and what can be done on it. In this case, the 42-year-old building would have to be torn down within five years and the site restored to a natural state. Councilman Richard Rush said the study proposal raised questions on its own.
“Who’s going to conduct the study?” Rush asked. “Are we going to be bound by the study?”
Others said it was worth taking time – the council set aside six months, although it might be finished sooner – for a major decision.
“We need to make sure we’re delivering to the taxpayers what they expect,” Councilman Mike Allen said.
Councilman Bob Apple said he would support the study, even though he wasn’t sure it was needed: “Sometimes you can study things to death.”
Council President Joe Shogan said there was no doubt the city would back the Park Board’s decision to purchase the YMCA building, one way or the other. It scheduled hearings for next week to make a loan from the city’s investment pool, if necessary.
“We’re not passing up an asset,” Shogan said. “We’re going to get four-plus million dollars to the Y.”
The study, however, was a chance to “slow things down a little bit because we’re not happy about where we’re at” with possible restrictions on the Conservation Futures funds, he added.