Regional PFD members say board still needed

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 13, 2013 

The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board spent two hours Wednesday discussing a path forward after the failure of its aquatics center sales tax measure earlier this year.

The group didn't make any decisions about its future course, including if and when it might propose the aquatics measure again or try another idea, perhaps even one that bundles more than one regional project together. But members generally seemed to agree that they don't want to see the regional group go away altogether.

A message from the meeting is "that we still need a regional structure to contemplate big facilities that individual jurisdictions can't and shouldn't build themselves," said Matt Watkins, board president and the mayor of Pasco.

The regional board set its next meeting for March. Between now and then, representatives of the group will meet with the Richland, Pasco and Kennewick city councils and the three cities' public facilities districts.

They plan to go over a post-mortem document that assesses the results of the August aquatics center vote, likely reasons for the defeat and the regional board's options for moving ahead.

The regional facilities district board in the Aug. 6 primary proposed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for a regional aquatics facility and water park. The measure got a warm welcome in Pasco, where the facility was to be built. But voters in Kennewick and Richland rejected it, and the measure failed overall with 55 percent against.

The regional board gathered shortly after the election to discuss its next steps and decided to meet again in November after a Kennewick Public Facilities District sales tax measure had its turn at the ballot box.

The Kennewick district proposed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase in last week's election for the expansion and improvement of the Three Rivers Convention Center on West Grandridge Boulevard.

The results from that election won't be official until they're certified later this month but the measure is failing with about 57 percent against.

Several regional board members said Wednesday that tax fatigue and uncertain financial times for many residents appeared to be significant factors in the measures' rejection.

They also talked about other possibilities, such as lack of enough information about what the projects would involve and their benefits.

The group heard from several community members with thoughts on the election results and the regional public facilities district's path forward.

Jack Griffith of Pasco said he doesn't want to see the group go away. "We need to take the lessons we learned from this and build on it so that we can succeed next time," he said.

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

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