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Liberty Lake, Airway Heights asking for bonds to build recreation centers

Residents of Airway Heights and Liberty Lake are voting on whether to pass a combined $25 million worth of construction bond measures to build swimming pools and other recreation facilities.

Airway Heights is asking voters to approve a $13 million recreation center just northwest of the Spokane County Raceway, and Liberty Lake voters will decide whether to use vacant land across the street from the STCU headquarters for a town square.

Both municipalities look at these projects as ways to give residents recreation space and community gathering spots, things both cities are lacking, city officials say.

In 2005, Airway Heights voters shot down a similar bond measure asking for $5 million. Since then, city officials say the demographic of the population has changed, and a recent survey showed a majority of residents in favor.

“We’ve had quite a bit of growth,” said J.C. Kennedy, director of Airway Heights Parks and Recreation. “The feedback we got from that survey was very positive – about 80 percent positive.”

The proposed recreation center would likely include an indoor pool, basketball courts, gym and a multipurpose room. It would be part of a larger, 70-acre recreation complex the city hopes to research if the $13 million bond measure passes. City officials say there is no timeline of when that project would be completed.

“There really isn’t anything regionally for our city residents or the surrounding community members to utilize,” said Mayor Kevin Richey, adding that the Airway Heights City Council showed unanimous support for this project. “We’re trying to bring a facility for our community.”

The bond measure would tax residents $1.398 per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $210 annually for a $150,000 home, for 30 years. The $13 million is for capital construction only. The center would likely follow a fee structure similar to the YMCA, and revenue from that would be expected to cover operational costs and maintenance.

“Fees will be something we’ll have to figure out,” Richey said. “Everything is mostly conceptual at this point.”

In Liberty Lake, the city is hoping to use land it purchased in 2006 to build a $12 million, 50,000-square-foot community center called Town Square. It would include an aquatic facility with two outdoor pools, a new library with a few multipurpose rooms, and a 240-person capacity community center.

“We’re growing very quickly and there has to be some activities for people to do here,” Mayor Steve Peterson said. “Now it’s time to plan for some indoor opportunities and activities.”

The bond measure would tax residents 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $135 a year for a $270,000 home.

Christy Zapata, a resident of Liberty Lake, has been vocal about her disapproval with the bond measure. In her opinion, the town square would be unsafe for children because of surrounding traffic, and the land it would be built on would be better suited for restaurants or small businesses within walking distance to residents, she said.

“That’s the last parcel that there is to develop,” she said. “Most people agree when I talk to them about it being in the wrong location.”

Katy Allen, a city administrator who has been working on the project since 2012, agrees with Zapata’s frustration, but she said the city decided on that particular spot of land because it was already purchased. And, officials didn’t want to put the town square too far away from any of the residents.

“We are getting a lot of feedback, and we have a lot of input from our community,” she said. “We wanted to make this inclusive to everyone.”

City officials estimate the town square’s yearly operating expenses would be about $800,000 – $500,000 of which is the current library’s expenses. Allen said these expenses will be offset largely by revenue from fees and concessions, in addition to the $473,000 residents already pay in yearly property taxes to run the library.

The previous library’s inventory and staff would be moved to the new location, and the old building on East Mission Avenue would be leased to other businesses.

Allen said the city is also using a building strategy called Progressive Design Build to reduce the cost of construction. Peterson said the builder, architect and city would all agree to a price before construction begins.

“Everybody’s at the same page, at the same meeting, at the same time,” he said.

The bond measures are on the Aug. 2 primary ballot and both need a two-thirds majority to pass.


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