TRAC no longer for sale, leaving aquatics center project up in the air

By John Trumbo, Tri-City HeraldAugust 23, 2012 

Franklin County commissioners have withdrawn TRAC from the market, sinking hopes for an aquatics center there.

Commissioner Rick Miller announced at Wednesday's commission meeting that he wanted to stop the process of negotiating a sale to the city of Pasco and the Pasco Public Facilities District.

Commissioner Bob Koch seconded the motion, while chairman Brad Peck strongly objected.

Nixing a potential sale at this time means the city and facilities district will have to find a different location for a regional aquatics center.

"This puts a monkey wrench in those plans," said Don Britain, a Kennewick City Council member who sits on the Regional Public Facilities District board that gave the go-ahead for the aquatics center project at TRAC, with conditions.

Koch told the Herald he believes TRAC should not be put up for sale "at this time, and talks with the city and Pasco Public Facilities District should be discontinued."

Koch said TRAC, which stands for Trade, Recreation and Agricultural Center, was built 20 years ago for a reason, which still exists.

Peck has been keen on negotiating with the city and Pasco facilities district, hoping a sale would help the county avoid future liability of up to $400,000 a year in deficit operational costs for TRAC.

Transferring ownership would put the deficit on the city and whoever ends up owning and operating the aquatics center.

Koch said one reason he was retracting on negotiations is because the city and Pasco facilities district have gone silent.

"There's been no response from the city or PFD for about six weeks," Koch said.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young, who also sits on the regional facilities district board, said the Franklin commissioners' vote means Pasco and its facilities district have to come to the next regional facilities district board meeting Sept. 12 to explain what their next steps will be.

The regional board voted 7-2 on June 28 to make the $35 million aquatics center its first choice.

Kennewick's Britain voted against what he called a moving target with too many unknowns.

One of the unknowns is whether the aquatics center can be placed at TRAC, as proposed.

Gary Crutchfield, Pasco city manager and executive director for the Pasco Public Facilities District, said at the June 28 regional board meeting that there was no deal yet.

Franklin commissioners' vote Wednesday underscored that fact.

As proposed, the aquatics center would have an indoor water park of 28,000 square feet, an indoor 25-meter competition pool and an outdoor water park of 90,000 square feet.

Matt Watkins, president of the regional facilities district board, said in June that he was very much in favor of the aquatics center -- at TRAC or anywhere else.

Watkins could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com

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