Spokane voters may see a bond measure of up to $70 million on the November ballot that would combine proposed funding for two long-discussed city projects: new and improved public pools and construction of a sports complex north of Joe Albi Stadium.
Councilman Rob Crow met this week with Parks and Recreation Department board members to discuss the possibility of bringing together the projects under one ballot measure.
“The two go fairly hand in hand,” said Crow, who led plans for the Albi complex. “It’s logical.”
Consideration of a combined recreation bond measure comes after many years of debate about the sports complex. Efforts to construct the complex were halted by controversy over alcohol sales and traffic, while cost estimates for the plan rose.
Meanwhile, discussion of pools funding has ramped up in recent years after indoor and outdoor swimming facilities in Shadle Park were closed, along with 12 wading pools.
A parks department telephone survey in the spring showed that residents were willing to pay higher taxes to construct a new aquatics facility and improve existing outdoor pools.
Public attention to both pools and the sports complex is one reason voters may be more willing to approve the hefty price, which could range from $50 million to $70 million depending on what pools plan the park board recommends, according to parks director Mike Stone.
“Both Albi and aquatics have been in the news a lot, so the community is more aware of those than they might be with other bond issues where you would have to raise awareness,” Stone said.
City voters are, however, aware of another tax issue that may prove a challenge to the recreation bond.
The City Council may add to the ballot an extension of a two-year property tax increase, originally approved by voters in 2005. Referred to as the levy lid lift, the measure might be too costly for voters if accompanied by the parks funding measure, Crow said.
“It’s a question of what the voters have a threshold for, if we’re asking for too much and whether we’re coming at it too early,” Crow said. “They may not both succeed.”
Those issues are on the minds of park board members as they look at six options for pools, Stone said. The possibilities range from an indoor aquatics center and gym estimated to cost $29.8 million to a single outdoor pool and bathhouse estimated at $3.7 million.
“We know what we want to do, but ‘What can we do?’ is the question. Nothing has been finalized,” board president Frank Knott said.
The park board has been weighing plans for pool improvements since aquatics consultants presented a report with options and cost estimates to members last week. The board is on a tight timeline because it must recommend a specific pools plan by Wednesday to gain City Council approval in time to get on the general election ballot, department spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed said.
Park board members are also considering recommending that the measure include funding for improvements at Riverfront Park. A “grand promenade” along Howard Street and a new building for the historic Looff Carrousel are possibilities, with a rough cost estimate of $16 million, Stone said.
Funding for youth baseball facilities is also being considered for the bond.
The City Council has ultimate say in what projects the potential bond measure will contain, how much money it will ask for and whether it will go before voters at all.
Wording for the measure must be finished by Aug. 13 to meet a county election deadline.
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