Tri-Citians won't be asked this year to approve a sales tax increase to pay for a regional aquatic center, performing arts center, new exhibit hall or interpretative center.
The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board has decided not to rush the issue to the November ballot but instead hire a consultant to first evaluate the four proposals.
That means there will be at least a one-year delay before the board pops the tax question to voters.
"Doing this right is more important than doing things quickly," Matt Watkins, a Pasco councilman and president of the board, said at Wednesday's monthly board meeting.
The board voted unanimously with eight members present to hire E.D. Hovee and Co. of Vancouver, Wash., to review each of the four proposals submitted as potential projects.
Hovee, which would have 75 days to complete the review, will be paid $24,500. The consultant is to determine the accuracy, completeness and reasonableness of the costs for each idea.
Hovee also is expected to help the board decide which project or combination of projects should be taken to a public vote.
An election, which is not expected before August or November 2013, is needed to approve a 0.1 percent sales tax increase, which would pay for construction of a regional project.
The measure would go to voters in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland.
"We need to be sure that whatever we put on the ballot is viable," said board member Sandra Kent, a Richland councilwoman.
Richland Mayor John Fox agreed on involving a consultant before rushing to a vote because the board needs time to inform voters about the proposed project.
"We have to carry on a campaign to get the people to support the tax," Fox said.
Watkins noted that the extra time also may be needed to revise numbers in the proposals, if they are not current.
"It is not feasible to get this on the November ballot. We're only going to get one shot, so we have to do this right," Watkins said.
Don Britain, a Kennewick councilman who had urged quick action with a goal of making the November election, said he wanted to see progress toward the ballot next year.
The Hanford Reach Interpretative Center proposal is seeking about $14 million to help build its proposed $50 million project in Columbia Park.
The performing arts proposal calls for a $35 million facility with seating for 2,500 that would be built at a location not yet determined.
The aquatics center proposal would have a $37.5 million complex built for the Tri-Cities at a site not yet selected.
The Kennewick Public Facilities District is asking for at least $10 million to build an exhibit hall as an addition to the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.