As the regional board developing an aquatics center proposal prepares a sales-tax measure for the ballot, supporters and opponents are lining up.
The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board recently recommended three people each to the committees that will write the tax request's pro and con statements for the voters' pamphlet.
Paul Whitemarsh, who is recommended for the pro committee, is retired now but worked for many years as Pasco's recreation services manager.
"Over the years, I've seen what swimming can do for a community, from the youngest to the oldest residents," he said, calling it "an amazing exercise people can do at any age. It keeps you moving, gets your heart pumping."
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He said that although the proposed aquatics center would be in Pasco, it would bring an economic benefit to the entire Tri-City area -- drawing visitors who would buy gas, shop in stores, eat in restaurants and otherwise spend money in town.
It also could help attract events such as large sports tournaments, he said.
"There are an endless number of advantages to having a regional aquatics center that would benefit every member of the Tri-Cities," he said.
He noted the only indoor swimming in the Tri-Cities is at private facilities.
"It's a milestone for the Tri-Cities to come together on something like this," he told the Herald last week. "I feel we'll get strong support."
But a former Kennewick mayor, Vic Epperly, doesn't think so, though he agrees the Tri-Cities is in great need of more water facilities.
He's among those recommended for the con committee.
"Most people I've talked to off the street said we shouldn't be building a commercial-style water park with tax money," he told the Herald.
He said it's a bad deal that's "grossly unfair."
All three cities need more municipal pool space, but he believes the proposal doesn't address that.
If it goes through, Pasco would get the added aquatics space, and also sales tax money from the construction project and a likely influx of development around the site, Epperly said.
On top of the sales tax increase, Kennewick and Richland residents likely in the future would have to foot the bill -- without help from Pasco -- for pool improvements in their cities, he said.
He has proposed scuttling the regional public facilities district's plan in favor of pursuing separate improvements -- the conversion of existing seasonal city pools into year-round indoor facilities -- in all three cities.
His plan also involves asking for the full two-tenths of 1 percent sales-tax increase allowed under state law, creating a revenue stream for an array of regional projects over the long-term.
Voters separately would consider projects under his plan.
Regional PFD officials have said they feel their plan is best for the community.