The future of the proposed regional aquatics facility and water park that went before voters in last week's Aug. 6 primary election is murky.
Will it be submitted again for another vote?
Will it be modified in some way?
Will some other path be taken?
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At this point, nothing has been decided. But it is clear the one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase that would pay for the aquatics attraction didn't win broad public support this go-round.
The primary election results aren't yet final, but the sales tax measure as of late last week was failing with about 55 percent against.
The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District Board, which proposed the measure, has a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14. Members are expected to begin talking about their next steps.
"I'm really looking forward to talking with the other PFD members. There will be a lot of different opinions," said Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, president of the regional board.
The sales tax measure was on the ballot in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick -- the three cities that make up the regional public facilities district.
It got a warm welcome in Pasco, with about 57 percent approval, according to the latest ballot count. But the results were flipped in Kennewick and Richland, where it's failing by 59 percent.
The measure needs approval from the total number of voters weighing in across the three cities to pass. Overall, it was drawing 13,594 yes votes to 16,658 no votes.
Officials said they've noticed some themes. Watkins, for example, said he's heard pushback over the sales tax increase having no end date.
Another common argument against the measure was that an aquatics project like the one proposed should come from private enterprise and not tax dollars. Proponents countered that private enterprise hasn't been able to make an aquatics project like the one proposed happen, and the facility would help provide important community services including year-round swimming lessons.
When it comes to the lopsided election results, it's hard to ignore that the site of the proposed aquatics attraction is 13 acres in west Pasco.
Some officials said that perhaps the vote is an indication that the Tri-Cities isn't yet ready to embrace a regional project that would be located in one city yet serve them all.
"A rising tide lifts all boats, so it shouldn't matter," said Richland Mayor John Fox, also a member of the regional facilities district board. He added that, at some point, "we have to find a way for some things to be built on a metropolitan-area basis."
Some other factors also perhaps were at play in the lopsided results. In a 2011 community survey about regional projects -- put out before the public facilities district board decided which type of regional project to pursue -- Pasco residents supported the concept of an aquatics center by a wider margin that those in the other two cities.
The aquatics measure, as proposed Aug. 6, would raise the sales tax in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick by one penny on a $10 purchase.
Officials estimated that increase would bring in about $3.35 million a year, enough to make bond debt payments, cover administrative expenses, build up an equipment reserve and help with operations costs if needed.
The roughly $35 million facility would have indoor and outdoor elements, with plans calling for features such as competition, training and activity pools, river channels, a surf simulator and slides.
Proponents said the project would be truly regional, bringing in millions in visitor spending to the Tri-Cites and greatly increasing access to swimming lessons and water safety training, among other community-wide benefits.
The three cities today have no public indoor swimming pools.
Opponents -- at least the ones who prepared the official con statement for the voters pamphlet -- agreed more public pool space is needed locally. But they said the proposal wasn't the right plan.
Vic Epperly of Kennewick, perhaps the most vocal critic, suggested an alternative package that would involve a higher tax increase to convert existing city pools in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick into year-round swim centers.
It never gained any traction and didn't appear on the ballot, but Epperly told the Herald that the regional board should take steps to do so now.
The lopsided results are "tied to the question of, what's in it for my city?" Epperly said, adding that he feels his alternative plan addresses that.
Some ballots still are left to be counted in the primary -- about 600 across the two counties.
Election results will be certified Aug. 20.
If the regional board does ultimately decide to propose the aquatics measure again, it couldn't happen until at least next year. The deadline already has passed for the November election.
An aquatics measure would have competition in that election anyway; the Kennewick Public Facilities District is planning a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase request for the expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center.
The next regional public facilities district board meeting is 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Richland Library, 955 Northgate Drive.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald