by Rick Langenberg:
The Woodland Park City Council made it official recently by diving into the $15 million aquatic center pool—at least on paper.
By a unanimous vote, the council approved a final ballot proposition that would allow the city to incur debt over a multi-year period for the construction and development of an aquatic facility and associated infrastructure. The bond issue will be decided this November by Woodland Park voters.
The bond package won’t require any tax increases, but the city government will pay for the aquatic project with its existing funds. According to the plans, the city will dedicate an annual amount for the aquatic center. If the voters say yes this November, then construction on the facility could begin next spring. A big question mark still persists over the location of the facility, with some economic leaders pushing for a site inside the Woodland Station area. Earlier pursuits for a location inside the expanded Memorial Park site were rejected Last week, the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority met behind closed doors the new aquatic center, which is included in the strategic plan for Woodland Station. It currently is designated to be located in the Lot 5 area, but that spot could change.
Even with the council’s approval, the project still must survive some tough political currents. Woodland Park voters have consistently denied bids for a full-scale recreation center with a major aquatic hub as the centerpiece feature. But these previous votes dealt with bids for tax increases.
This time, the project is being funded almost entirely by the city. Still, aqua center proponents for the project realize they must hit the ground running. Some residents have taken a skeptical view of the costs involved and whether the city should get into the swimming pool and aquatic center business. But proponents have already launched their campaign and have already compiled a pro-aquatic center brochure, distributed at many local businesses.
Ironically, the council’s approval of the bond package plan follows an about-face move by elected leaders. When funding plans were initially presented by board members of the Woodland Aquatic Project, the city council gave the idea a cold response. They indicated they loved the project, but urged the group to try to obtain grants and other funding sources for the venture.Last spring, the political cards changed in favor of the city taking a lead role in the aqua center funding. This was largely due to a big spike in sales tax revenue and other funds.
The aquatic center will cost a little more than $10 million to construct, but the complete repayment amount is slated at $15.4 million.With this amount, the facility may be able to house additional amenities, such as a racquetball court and extra community rooms and possibly a gymnasium. The main focus of the center, though, will hinge on several pools, a spa, hot tubs and related facilities.