The public board that proposed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for a regional aquatics facility and water park will meet again in a few months to evaluate its next steps.
The tax request was on the Aug. 6 primary ballot; the results aren't yet official, but as of the last tally, the measure is failing with 55 percent against.
During the next few months, Pasco's deputy city manager, who provides staff support to the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District Board, will compile a comprehensive postmortem document.
It will be valuable for the board, the public and the three cities -- Richland, Pasco and Kennewick -- that make up the public facilities district, said Matt Watkins, board president and Pasco's mayor.
The board will next meet in mid-November.
The group gathered Wednesday for the first time since the primary, when the sales tax measure was on the ballot in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. Board members spent more than 11/2 hours talking about the results and listening to input from the community.
Steve Young, vice president of the board and Kennewick's mayor, said he heard from several voters who cast ballots against, and each had a different reason. Some board members said the lopsided results -- the measure is being warmly welcomed in Pasco, where the aquatics facility would be located, but is being soundly rejected in Richland and Kennewick -- suggest the Tri-Cities might not be ready for a regional project.
"I think the voters sent a message that 'we aren't ready to do something like that.' That was the message I (received)," Young said. "But with all these different reasons for voting no, it's a little bit confusing."
Board member Rebecca Francik said she feels the measure's apparent failure might be due more to tax fatigue among voters than parochialism.
The November election -- in which a sales tax increase for expansion of the Three Rivers Convention Center will be on the ballot in Kennewick -- may help shed light on that. The Kennewick Public Facilities District is making that one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax request.
During Wednesday's meeting, more than one community member urged the regional board not to give up on an aquatics facility altogether.
"What's most important to me is that the need doesn't change. We got a no vote today; I don't think that's no forever," said Randy Willis, a longtime aquatics supporter who helped lead the citizens committee working to pass the measure.
Several board members said they're pleased the regional group was able to bring a regional measure to the ballot, even though it's being rejected.
"I think it's a testament to the cooperation between the cities that we actually achieved that -- we got through selection, we got a project chosen and it made it on the ballot," said board member Sandra Kent. She and other board members expressed hope the community will able to come together on a regional project in the future.
The primary election results will be certified Aug. 20.
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald