Public's input sought on regional projects

Tri-Citians will have two opportunities next week to say what's on their wish list for a major regional facility such as a performing arts center or aquatic park.

The Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District is considering what regional center project to pursue that would serve Benton and Franklin counties.

The nine-member board, with representatives from Pasco, Richland and Kennewick, will take public comments and suggestions at a 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday at the Tri-Cities Business & Visitor Center, 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick.

A second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in room L-102 of Columbia Basin College's Library, 2600 N. 20th Ave., Pasco.

The board wants to know what kind of facility people want -- with the understanding that any regional project would require voter approval in all three cities to authorize an increase in sales taxes to pay for it.

The regional district was created in October specifically to allow the three cities to work together in identifying a possible project that would be larger than any one city could do on its own. The district's directors also would collaborate on planning, funding and operation of whatever project is selected.

Matt Watkins, who is Pasco mayor and president of the regional facilities district board, said anyone interested in a Tri-Cities regional center should attend one of the two meetings.

"We'll be interested in hearing from the public and new ideas or perspectives," said Watkins, who said the board will share details of how the district will work and what projects have been considered.

Projects mentioned so far include a water park and a performing arts center.

"We want to think 50 years from now, not just a few years down the road," Watkins said. "Things like a planetarium, a zoo, a railroad/ transportation museum also have been mentioned.

"I'm hopeful after the public meetings and the next few board meetings we'll have a list shortened down to a few viable project ideas," he said.

People also may attend the board's monthly meetings, which are scheduled for 5:45 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Richland Community Center meeting room, 500 Amon Park Drive, Richland.

Steve Young, Kennewick's mayor, is vice president of the board and Sandra Kent, Richland council member, is secretary.