Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board plans to stay intact

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board won't pursue another project right now.

But the group, which last year proposed a failed aquatics center measure, also isn't going away.

"I don't want to see it dissolve," said board member Saul Martinez, who is also a Pasco city councilman. "I think with the Tri-Cities growing ... we need to maintain and keep the Tri-Cities being more and more vibrant as the years go on."

Martinez and his fellow regional board members voted during Wednesday's session to keep the board intact, without a project on the immediate horizon. Instead, they'll seek to regroup and re-engage with the community about what it wants in terms of regional facilities. The idea of a community task force was raised.

The regional board last met in November, a few months after its one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax proposal for an aquatics center sank at the ballot box. Since that fall session, a few board members met with the Richland, Pasco and Kennewick city councils to gather feedback and seek direction. Under an interlocal agreement, the regional group can be dissolved starting next year by any of the three cities opting out.

Board members also met with the three cities' individual public facilities districts.

"We've learned some lessons. We're finding out that we're a bigger community than we thought we were. We're an organization that came together, that has strength in its association," said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young, vice president of the regional board. "What I hear is that we need to keep this together and not be aggressive in another project, but also not sit on our haunches and do nothing. I think we need to be strategizing for the future."

Young announced that another Kennewick council member soon will be picked to take his spot on the regional board, as his workload grows.

The regional board's sales tax request was on the ballot last August in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, failing overall with about 55 percent against. A few months later, the Kennewick Public Facilities District proposed a similar sales tax increase in Kennewick to pay for expanding the Three Rivers Convention Center. It also failed.

John Givens, a member of the Kennewick and the regional public facilities district boards, said Wednesday that the convention center expansion still is needed and the Kennewick group may bring forward another proposal at some point.

The regional board has nine members. One member -- Rebecca Francik, part of the Pasco City Council -- was absent. The next meeting is set for June.

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

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