Tri-Cities Regional PFD considering task force after failure of aquatics center proposal

By Sara Schilling Tri-City HeraldJune 9, 2014 

The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board anticipates seeking help from a community task force in setting a path forward following the failure last year of its aquatics center proposal.

During a meeting last week -- the board's first since March, when it decided to stay intact as a group without another project on the immediate horizon -- members agreed to create a subcommittee to recommend a specific charge for the task force. The subcommittee also will discuss how the task force members should be picked.

The subcommittee will meet ahead of the next meeting of the full board in September.

"I think that's one of the lessons we learned -- even though we did have public input (as the aquatics proposal was formulated), we really are looking for a broad spectrum of citizens out in the community to provide input on what they think is important, how they think we should proceed," said Don Britain, the regional board's president.

The board last summer proposed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick for a regional aquatics facility and water park. It won approval in Pasco, where the facility was to be located, but voters in Richland and Kennewick rejected it, and it failed overall. A few months later, the Kennewick Public Facilities District board proposed a similar sales tax increase in Kennewick for expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center, but it also failed.

During last week's regional meeting, board member Fred Raab outlined his idea for a task force to create a road map for achieving regional projects, such as an aquatics center and expansion of the convention center. He will be part of the subcommittee, along with regional board members Bob Parks and Rebecca Francik.

Vic Epperly of Kennewick, who opposed the aquatics center measure and suggested an alternative idea that involved a higher sales tax increase to create a stream of revenue for pool facilities in all three cities and other regional projects, urged the board to come up with a strategic plan.

His proposal was on the agenda for discussion during the meeting, and he said board members should take it as information only at this point. The board should engage the public and seek ideas from residents about what they want, he said.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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