We were hoping for something definitive when the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board heard from its consultant earlier this month.
We can't be the only ones longing for clarity on the direction the board will recommend to the public. Some of the projects under consideration have been on the community's wishlist for decades.
But we've had to check our initial impulse to pan consultant Eric Hovee's review of the four regional projects under consideration.
Each one presented a moving target in the final days before his report, and major changes in direction are still emerging.
So much uncertainty remains that it would be foolhardy to lock onto any proposal at this stage. The board's cautious step forward is disappointingly timid but prudent given the circumstances.
And we can't fault the proponents of the four proposals for altering their plans. Each change is a reaction to new obstacles or an attempt to make the project more viable -- or both.
But the result is that all four -- a $35 million aquatics center, a $36 million performing arts center, $14.5 million to help build the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and $15 million to add an exhibit hall at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick -- look vastly different than they did just a few weeks ago.
Among the developments:
w The aquatics center proponents entered a partnership with the Pasco Public Facilities District to convert TRAC into a regional water park.
w The performing arts center announced plans to team with the Kennewick Public Facilities District to move in tandem with the proposed expansion of the convention center, altering plans for both.
w The Reach ran into a roadblock when its initial request for proposals for site preparation drew only one bid, which was $1 million over the engineer's estimate. The Richland Public Facilities District is looking at ways to make the interpretive center more affordable.
A range of other uncertainties is attached to the projects, further complicating the regional PFD's task.
The convention center/performing arts center proposal, for example, depends on a private company building an adjacent hotel that's large enough and sophisticated enough to accommodate the conventions needed to make the project worthwhile.
City officials have expressed optimism, but no one is ready to announce a deal.
Plans unfolding for the aquatics center are based on the notion that the public already owns TRAC and any money that comes through the regional PFD would go toward converting the property, not acquiring it.
But Franklin County commissioners told the Herald they won't give up the facility -- valued at $3.6 million -- without compensation.
We're sympathetic to the county's desire to raise money to replace equestrian facilities that would be lost if TRAC becomes a family aquatic center, but charging taxpayers for a building they already own is the wrong approach.
At a minimum, the commissioners are creating questions about the cost of converting TRAC that are unlikely to be answered anytime soon.
That's unfortunate. The sooner the uncertainties surrounding the four proposals disappear and concrete plans emerge, the better for everyone in the Mid-Columbia, Franklin County residents included.
The regional PFD voted to put a 0.1 percent sales tax increase on the ballot next year, which would raise an estimated $39.5 million over the next 25 years to pay for a regional project.
There's an argument for asking voters to approve the full 0.2 percent increase allowed under state law. It could provide enough revenue to move all four projects forward.
But given the uncertainty, the decision to seek only half that amount is a wise one. It leaves the window open for pursuing additional projects once more is known.
It's too bad board members don't yet have the information they need to name the project they will recommend to voters.
But they're making progress. We'll take it.