Public Facilities District Board now will have to look at other options

By John Trumbo, Tri-City HeraldAugust 24, 2012 

A sudden reversal by Franklin County commissioners to not sell TRAC to the Pasco Public Facilities District as a site for a $36 million regional aquatics center is a major setback, said John Givens, who represents Kennewick on the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board.

"That project, as it stands today, is dead," Givens said at Thursday's meeting of the Kennewick PFD board.

Givens, also a member of the Kennewick PFD, said his remarks were as an individual, not on behalf of either board he sits on.

The 2-1 vote of Franklin commissioners Wednesday was largely unexpected and came over the objection of Franklin commission Chairman Brad Peck.

Givens said the regional board now must take a hard look during its Sept. 12 meeting to determine its next step.

"It really puts this back several months and will cause the regional board to seek other options," he said.

The decision by Franklin County commissioners Bob Koch and Rick Miller to stop discussions with the Pasco PFD about transferring ownership of TRAC creates a difficult problem for the regional facilities district board because it voted earlier this year to make the aquatics center its first choice -- conditional on being built at TRAC.

That means the regional board must agree to having the project built at a different site or selecting a different project, Givens said.

But the 0.1 percent sales tax, which still needs voter approval to pay for any regional project, is only adequate to fund construction of the proposed aquatics center, leaving little money available to buy land, Givens said.

Three other regional projects have been suggested. They are:

w Putting $14.5 million toward building the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center in Columbia Park West.

w Providing $15 million for a 46,000 square-foot expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

w Building a $35 million performing arts center as part of the Three Rivers Convention Center campus.

Also Thursday, the Kennewick facilities district board agreed to hire ALSC Architects and Conventional Wisdom of Spokane to begin work on designing the exhibit hall expansion for the convention center.

The contract calls for ALSC to research past reports about the needs for an expansion, interview prospective tenants about what should be included in the additional space and work with Corey Pearson, convention center executive director, on details about the conceptual design.

The contractor, which is expected to report results by the end of the year, would receive $42,000, Pearson said.

The second phase of work requires ALSC to work with hotel developer Vijay Patel of Kennewick in coordinating construction of the expansion with the five-story Springhill Suites by Marriott hotel project to be built adjacent to the convention center.

ALSC's final task will be to prepare the design drawings. It was ALSC that designed the 81,000 square-foot convention center.

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

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