Sales tax revenue offers the best way to pay for a Tri-Cities aquatic park, performing arts center or other potential community projects from a Regional Public Facilities District, according to recommendations from a regional oversight committee.
The Tri-Cities Regional Facilities Oversight Committee, which has spent the past four years analyzing the possibility of creating a regional public facilities district, last week forwarded its recommendations to the Pasco, Richland and Kennewick city councils for the creation of a Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District.
Pasco City Council members at a workshop Monday got the first look at the work of the committee, which included council members, city managers and a representative of the public facilities district in each of the cities.
The Kennewick and Richland city councils are expected to review the report at meetings in July, said Stan Strebel, deputy Pasco city manager. Pasco council members will discuss the recommendations again at a future workshop before voting on whether to approve an interlocal agreement with the other cities to form the Regional Public Facilities District.
Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, who served on the oversight committee, said the group "tried our best to find common ground on how such a process could occur."
"The question will be asked of all three councils if it is the way to go forward. I think it is the best way to go," said Watkins, who praised the work of the committee.
"Never before ... have we been this collaborative and cooperative as a Tri-Cities community," Watkins said.
The committee determined use of sales taxes offered the most equitable and best way to pay for any project, since all visitors to the Tri-Cities would wind up contributing, according to the committee recommendations.
Voters in the three cities would decide ultimately whether to pay for any regional center project that could be recommended, including a proposed aquatic center and performing arts center. Each has "active champions who have done a significant amount of pre-design and pre-planning work," according to the committee's recommendations.
The committee said the aquatic center could be built in any of the three communities. And Columbia Basin College's plan to replace its performing arts theater offers the chance for the college and the three communities to "realize a larger, more versatile facility than (CBC) might otherwise construct while providing the community with a financial partner" for operations and construction, the committee said.
Unless a project is proposed, the Regional Public Facilities District would have no revenues. It would need money from the cities for administrative, insurance and legal counsel expenses of no more than $50,000 annually, said Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield.
The oversight committee also recommended the board of directors of a Regional Public Facilities District be comprised of three members from each city, including members of city councils and/or the public facilities districts.