Woodland Park preparing for $15.4 million swim excursion


City could face annual repayment expenses of $913,000

by Rick Langenberg:


Woodland Park city leaders are finally ready to make a $10 million-plus dive into a new aquatic pool. And unless officials hit any rough currents, the city should break ground later this summer on the aquatic center project, with a prospective opening date around Christmas time 2016 or early 2017.

Last week, the Woodland Park City Council approved the initial reading of a new ordinance that opens the door for the government to officially incur debt, with the issuing of general fund bonds not to exceed $10.1 million, with a repayment cost ceiling of $15.4 million. The bond funds will cover the facility’s complete design, engineering and construction costs and associated infrastructure expenses..

A final hearing has been set for Feb. 5.

In essence, this detailed 17-page ordinance sets the wheels in motion for financing the new aquatic center project over the next two decades by allowing the government to enter the bond market and obtain the best deal possible.  This would allow the city to start incurring debt for the project and to finance forthcoming design and engineering costs for the center, which will be located inside the Woodland Station. Details of the exact site still have to get finalized.

According to City Manager David Buttery, this marks the next major step in the process, following the decision by voters on Nov. 4 to allow the city to finance the project by using available revenue sources and not by raising taxes.  “This allows us to enter the bond market and get the best interest rate,” said the city manager, who believes the city can get a good deal in the current bond marketplace. Although it’s not certain yet, the city hopes to secure a 20 or 25-year financing deal. Under current projections compiled by Buttery, the city will have to foot a repayment bill of $228,000 in 2015.  But starting in 2016, the city could face estimated annual minimum costs of $913,000 to pay off its debt for the aquatic center and other projects for the next two decades. These repayment monies will also be used for the Memorial Park facelift and for a new maintenance facility, according to Buttery. These latter two projects will be done in 2015.

But depending on what kind of deal Woodland Park receives, the city could also have the option of paying off its debt at a faster rate.  With these repayment costs , the city could get pretty lean in dealing with other commitments. For example, this year the city dished out less than $30,000 in community investment dollars, one of its lowest allotments in recent years. Buttery says the city is hopeful about completing the project and opening the new aquatic center by Christmas time 2016.  But the possibility looms that this opening date could get pushed back to the spring of 2017. “It is very important that we do this right,” said the city manager. He reiterated that Woodland Station is the designated area where the center will be located, but stressed that details still have to get worked out regarding a final site and in completing the pre-construction engineering.

In a previous interview, the city manager viewed 2015 as the time for finalizing the design, engineering and pre-construction work for the aquatic project.  The city has a lot riding on this venture. Voters strongly supported the idea of a city-financed aquatic center, as long as they don’t have to pay any extra taxes.  The Woodland Aquatic Project group is also planning on pursuing a fund-raising campaign to help pave the way for more center amenities and assistance in lowering the government’s debt. 

In any case, the aquatic center marks one of the most aggressive projects the city has attempted in recent years. Ironically, the repayment costs are very similar to those projected during an earlier 45,000-square-foot proposed recreation center, around the time of the Wal-Mart development, when officials thought revenues from that project would completely fund an elaborate YMCA facility.

But when the economy crashed, that project was put on hold and was eventually voted down.