Tri-Cities regional PFD agrees on consultant for aquatics center design

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 1, 2013 

The regional board proposing an aquatics center in west Pasco agreed Thursday on a consultant to create a conceptual design.

Water Technology Inc., or WTI, will be able to build off work it did when the center was planned for the TRAC facility near Road 68 in Pasco. The regional facility now is planned on land near Sandifur Parkway.

The project is contingent on voters in Pasco, Richland and Kennewick approving a one-tenth of 1 percent sales-tax increase to cover costs.

"We're making progress," said John Fox, a member of the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board, after Thursday's meeting. He's also Richland's mayor.

WTI will be paid $18,500 for its work, which will include updated cost estimates, a design narrative, a 3-D electronic model and a conceptual site plan.

The aquatics center is to include indoor and outdoor features, from slides to a lazy river to a zero-depth entry pool, which would allow people to walk into the water.

The board Thursday also discussed the timing of the election. A final decision was not made, but members seem to be leaning toward running the sales-tax measure in August, with the idea it could be pushed to November if too few other measures end up on the primary ballot to sufficiently spread out election costs.

"I want to, and I think the board wants to go with August. We just need to make sure that the (costs make sense)," Matt Watkins, board president and Pasco's mayor, told the Herald.

A decision likely will come in April.

Early in Thursday's session, Vic Epperly of Kennewick asked the board for time on the agenda to talk about his proposal to go after pool improvements in all three cities instead of a single new aquatics center in Pasco.

He came with some updated numbers.

Epperly, a former Kennewick mayor, has said his approach would be more fair and more appealing to voters. He also proposes seeking the full two-tenths of 1 percent sales-tax increase allowed under state law to create a stream of money for a variety of projects.

Voters separately would consider each project, starting with the pool facilities.

But Watkins said board members already received Epperly's proposal and weren't interested in further discussion. Epperly was given a few minutes to speak during the time for public comment.

Afterward, he told the Herald he was disappointed but not surprised by how the meeting shaped up, saying the board is close-minded. He said he'll seek a spot on the committee that will draft the measure's official opposition statement.

Fox and fellow regional board member Don Britain addressed Epperly's proposal during the time for board comments.

Britain, a member of the Kennewick City Council, said he's skeptical of the dollar figures in Epperly's proposal and is confident the plan being floated by the regional board is best.

Fox said the regional public facilities district formed to seek projects no one city could afford alone and that "we needed only one of in the Tri-City area," and Epperly's plan goes against that.

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