Pasco’s recreational complex off Burden Boulevard is the perfect location for a future community center, city staff said Monday.
The city owns property in the north end of the Gesa Stadium parking lot and is an area that likely would see more foot traffic than the current senior center on North Seventh Place near downtown.
That’s the idea Rick Terway, city administrative and community services director, floated to City Council members who are prepared to sell the senior center and build a facility that would be attractive to all ages.
“We have tried for at least the last four years, if not five, to incorporate youth programs into the Senior Center, and it’s so difficult for kids to go into a senior center just because of that phrase,” Terway said.
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The council had decided last year to make a priority of finding a smaller senior center to replace its 22,000-square-foot facility, which has been declining in usage in recent years.
However, earlier this month, the council in a rare move agreed to amend that biennial goal. That was after Terway advised the council they should seek a community center where they can hold programs and offer space to all ages.
Mayor Matt Watkins has applauded the move, noting that even though Richland’s community center became an all-ages facility it still continues to draw a large crowd of seniors.
Terway told the council Monday that the current senior center could sell for $1.1 million, which would go toward the estimated $2.2 million cost of a new building.
He said staff settled on the Burden Boulevard property after considering properties for sale or lease west of Highway 395. Nothing matched the size or configuration they would need for a community center.
Councilman Al Yenney thinks it is a good option and it is along a bus route, but said they should be clear the center is not just for west Pasco.
“I think if we get a mentality like that, I wouldn’t go for it. The community center is going to be for the city, just like Kurtzman (Park) is for the city and the (Memorial Park) swimming pool is for the city,” he said.
Councilman Tom Larsen was not in favor of the suggested location because the city already has put a lot of pressure on that area with the increase in vehicles and traffic from the sporting venues.
“I want to emphasize we’re impacting that area more than we need to do and we shouldn’t be doing it,” Larsen said.
Councilman Bob Hoffmann said the city has so many priorities right now, like a new police station and an animal shelter, that he thinks they should focus on and set aside talks about a community center until later.
Watkins told Terway to keep crunching the numbers and refine the proposal, and bring it back to the council in a few weeks.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Interviewed four candidates for two vacant seats on the Pasco Planning Commission.
Tanya Bowers, Michael Clark, Paul Mendez and Nolvia Salinas were considered for positions 1 and 3, both of which expired in mid-February.
Incumbent Gabriel Portugal, who was appointed to Position No. 9 in 2014, saw his term expire Feb. 15. The council screening committee concluded that he should be reappointed without an interview.
The commission is composed of nine members who serve six-year terms and meet the third Thursday of each month. The board holds workshop meetings and public hearings on land-use policy and developmental proposals, then makes recommendations to the City Council.
Watkins will confer with council members and make the appointments at the April 6 meeting.
• Viewed a presentation by Facilities Manager Dan Dotta about trees being a hidden asset.
Dotta said most people only talk about trees when they need shade during hot summer months or have to rake leaves in the fall.
Yet, Dotta said his department enjoys educating people on the value of trees — like how a single tree produces more than 260 pounds of oxygen a year or a large tree can transpire as much as 100 gallons of water a day.
The city became a Tree City U.S.A. in 2007, and now owns more than 5,000 trees, which help to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Pasco, he added.
His staff of 14, along with 40 seasonal employees, has been trying to lead by example by planting the right tree in the right place, enforcing correct pruning practices and showing proper tree care.
However, the challenges they face in preserving the trees are not only environmental, but from vandalism and vehicle crashes. Dotta showed council members a picture of a tree that suffered $10,000 in damage when someone took an ax around the entire trunk.
Trees protect both the environment and neighborhoods, increase property values and “allow for a place to dream,” Dotta said.
The city is working on a cartography system by mapping each city-owned tree with its history and value. The system also allows city staff to create work orders for particular trees.
Watkins said he appreciates that city staff have placed a document on Pasco’s website, http://www.pasco-wa.gov/, which lists trees that are complementary to the Mid-Columbia landscape.