Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District moves forward from failed aquatics measure

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 23, 2014 

What path should the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District take following the defeat last year of its proposed aquatics center measure?

Leaders of the group are visiting other local public facilities districts and city councils to gather input on that question.

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, the regional board's president, on Thursday made the first stop of the tour, speaking with the Kennewick Public Facilities District board.

The Kennewick group also recently proposed a project -- expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center on West Grandridge Boulevard -- that failed to win enough voter support.

Watkins and the Kennewick board spent about 45 minutes discussing reasons for their measures' defeat, things they could have done better and potential ideas moving forward. Among other things, the possibility of bundling multiple public projects together in one proposal has been raised.

Watkins will visit the Kennewick and Richland city councils next week. Regional PFD leaders also plan visits to the Pasco City Council and the Richland and Pasco public facilities districts ahead of the regional group's next meeting in March.

Barbara Johnson, president of the Kennewick PFD board, said her group still believes expansion of the convention center is important and needed.

"Our need has not gone away," Johnson said. "There are still a lot of viable projects out there. Somehow, we have to figure out within these organizations -- the PFDs -- how these projects are going to come to fruition.

"I look forward to hearing some of the other conversations," she said.

The Kennewick Public Facilities District in November proposed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to expand and improve the convention center. Supporters say the work is needed to attract new business and retain existing customers who are outgrowing the facility.

The measure was on the ballot in Kennewick.

A few months before, Kennewick voters -- along with those in Richland and Pasco -- weighed in on the Regional PFD's aquatics proposal. That measure would have raised the sales tax one-tenth of 1 percent in the three cities to pay for a regional aquatics facility and water park.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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