Ex-Kennewick mayor Victor Epperly suggests pool improvements, not aquatics center

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 18, 2013 

A former Kennewick mayor wants the public agency proposing a regional aquatics center to make significant changes to its plan before it goes to Tri-City voters.

Victor Epperly says the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board should go after pool improvements in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick instead of a single new facility in west Pasco.

That would provide "comparable aquatics centers in each of our cities, thus addressing the question of 'what's in it for my city,' " he wrote in an open letter to the board.

It seems unlikely, though, that the board will change course.

The group worked for years to settle on a project, and "came to deliberate decision" about the current plan, said Matt Watkins, board president.

The board in late January agreed to ask voters in the three cities for a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for building and operating a regional aquatics center off Sandifur Parkway.

Many details are being worked out, including whether the measure will run in the August primary or November general election.

The board's next meeting is Wednesday.

Epperly said he feels it would be more equitable -- and better received by voters -- to provide improved pool facilities in all three cities. "It's a fact (that) we have less municipal pool space now than we had 50 years ago, yet our population has more than tripled. This clearly is an indicator that there is a need for more than just one aquatics center," he wrote.

He proposes converting Pasco's Memorial Pool into a year-round indoor and outdoor facility with a 50-meter lap tank, making similar upgrades to Richland's George Prout Memorial Pool and constructing a new indoor/outdoor aquatics center with a 50-meter lap tank at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex in Kennewick if the existing downtown pool can't be converted.

He also proposes asking for the full two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase allowed under state law, creating a stream of revenue for an array of projects. Voters would separately consider individual projects under his plan, starting with the three swim facilities.

Epperly served on the Kennewick City Council in the 1980s.

The regional board last year decided it would limit its sales tax increase request to one-tenth of 1 percent, leaving the remaining taxing authority for other projects or local public facilities districts.

Watkins said the group is committed to going after the tax measure specifically for the aquatics center planned in Pasco. It could go after additional projects later.

"We're working hard on it," he said of the current proposal, adding the board is nearing a decision on the timing and making progress on other details.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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