Regional board backs aquatics center proposal

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 10, 2013 

The regional board planning to send an aquatics center proposal to Tri-City voters later this year has picked a conceptual site plan that includes a 25-meter-by-25-yard competition pool, leisure and wave pools, a surf simulator, lazy river, water walk and slides, among other features.

The plan was the least expensive of three options presented Wednesday night during the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District Board meeting, held at Pasco City Hall. It came closest to hitting the target of $35 million.

The other options included larger competition pools and ran several million dollars more.

Doug Whiteaker, president of Water Technology Inc., the firm hired to create the conceptual plan, briefed the board on the options.

He said the competition pool could be expanded in the future; it wouldn't be simple but also wouldn't be "a no-go," he told the regional board.

Multiple board members said the choice was clear. "It would be hard for me to support more than we can afford," said board member John Givens.

"I agree with Mr. Givens," board member Don Britain said. "The figures don't lie. We have to (go after) what we can afford."

Along with the indoor and outdoor aquatics features, the conceptual plan includes a parking lot with 350 spaces, sand volleyball and play areas and a concession patio. The information Whiteaker presented put the estimated project cost -- including expenses from land acquisition to furnishings -- at $34.7 million. But that included a math error that would push the total to around $36 million.

Matt Watkins, president of the regional board, said he's confident the numbers for Option A will pencil out after some adjustments. WTI will bring back revised figures and more details on the option at the regional board's meeting in May.

During time set aside Wednesday for public comment, some community members said they would prefer to see recreation features scaled back in favor of a larger competition pool.

Randy Willis, a longtime aquatics center proponent, said that as much as he wants a larger competition pool, he'd take the same position as the board if he were in their shoes.

The board plans to ask voters in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick for a one-tenth of 1 percent sales-tax increase to pay for the aquatics center. Members haven't finalized whether to run the measure in August or November but are leaning toward the summer primary.

The aquatics center would be built on land off Sandifur Parkway in Pasco.

The board recommended Terry Allen of Kennewick, Douglas Wertz of Richland and Paul Whitemarsh of Pasco for the committee that will write the official voters' pamphlet statement in favor of the tax measure. The board also recommended Victor Epperly of Kennewick, Jerry Martin of Kennewick and Richard Weiss of Pasco for the committee in charge of the opposition statement.

Each committee could have up to three members.

The names will go to the city councils in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick for ratification.

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

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