Woodland Leaders Gear Up For Major Ballot Issue To Fund Aquatic Center

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City may incur $14 million debt

by Rick Langenberg:

 

 

The fiscal dive into a mega, Olympic-sized Woodland Park pool is now official. Local voters will decide a ballot issue this November that could turn a long-time dream of developing a community-wide aquatic center, along with footing the bill for a Memorial Park facelift, a new maintenance facility and other improvements.

None of these projects will require any city tax increases, as the Woodland Park government plans to use existing dollars to finance these efforts. But because the city will incur a long-term debt of possibly $14 million and issue bonds, voter approval is required, based on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The money for these developments and the new construction will come from a growing pot of city revenue, with the government planning to allocate more than $500,000 a year for 10 to 20 years to finance the aquatic center, the Memorial Park makeover and other enhancements. City officials compare the funding plan to that of financing a mortgage on a new home. And it’s quite an elaborate home.

Last week, the Woodland Park City Council, in a special meeting, advanced plans for issuing bonds for the three combined projects. The aquatic center, a Memorial Park makeover and new city maintenance facility. More importantly, the council granted a request by the Woodland Aquatic Project (WAP) board to pay between $40,000 and $80,000 for a concept design plan for the aquatic center. The city will soon solicit requests for proposals for the aquatic center design, a tool that project proponents see as a key selling point in the forthcoming November election.

At a previous council meeting, Councilman Bob Carlsen, a member of the aquatic board, cited this design as vital to the success of the bond package. “It just makes sense to do this,” said the councilman in a meeting last month that prompted the special council session. “It’s logical to have something they (city voters) can look at for this aquatic project. What is it you are going to build?”
He and other aquatic board leaders got their wish, with the results of a special meeting.

“This is the most significant decision the council has made regarding this project,” said Carlsen following the council session last week. He touted the fact that the council agreed to finance a design plan for the aquatic center, and also heavily endorsed the project. That hasn’t occurred since plans were revamped nearly five years ago for an aquatic center that would feature several pools, a spa, sauna, hot tubs, meeting and exercise rooms and possibly a racquetball court. “It was a historic decision,” said Steve Jeroslow, a WAP board member and local resident.

“You turned skeptics into believers,” said Councilman Noel Sawyer, in complimenting Carlsen and members of the aquatic board, during last week’s regular council meeting. In the last few years, Woodland Park elected leaders have been reluctant to allow the city to play the role as the major funding entity of the aquatic center, preferring that the aquatic group consider going to the voters for a sales tax increase, or secure more grants. In addition, the fact that voters trounced a previous plan to finance a recreation center with a sales tax hike influenced their thinking. But a vastly improving economic picture for the local government, coupled with a huge influx in city sales tax dollars, has changed the political dynamics surrounding the aquatic center, a project that had its genesis 20 years ago.
Although no exact price tag has been tabulated for the aquatic center, the approximate 30,000 square-foot aqua hub is expected to cost $7 million to construct, based on Carlsen?s estimates.

According to the aqua project board leader, the city is eyeing a bond issue of between $10 million and $14 million, with an estimated bill of $8.8 million for the aquatic center that also will include site improvements. Details of the bond issue still have to be worked out, but the city must have the proposed ballot issue package finalized prior to August.

The aquatic center would be located inside the Woodland Station area, near the old Bergstrom Arena. However, a few financial loopholes still have to be finalized, such as the land acquisition from the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority.
Despite these hurdles, aquatic center proponents are bullishly optimistic. “This is the farthest we have gotten with this project,” said Carlsen.

If voters give the okay this November, the aquatic center could undergo construction in the spring and summer of 2015