Letter to the editor: 1/7/16
I attended the Dec. 17th council meeting with many others who are concerned with the direction the aquatic center is taking. What I experienced was very disheartening. It was the first time in 40 yrs. I wanted to move away from this community. So many people took the time to come; many of them spoke and made excellent points. Not once did the council acknowledge the good points, suggestions and concerns over joint use, location of the aquatic center. All the council could manage was a thank you. Mayor Levy also took it upon himself to manipulate the order in which people spoke.
I was under the impression that we were called to speak in the order in which we signed in. That was definitely not the case. The energy in the room felt very condescending to say the least and it created an atmosphere of mistrust. They did however acknowledge Art Wannalund (retired CEO) and asked if he would be willing to help with the contract between the school district and the city. A smart move on Mayor Levy’s part because the 50 year contract they had intended to sign was ridiculous.
The aquatic center is rapidly losing the support of people who might have otherwise donated money and or time to make it a success. Once the Depot location was off the table there should have been an open public forum from the community to discuss other options. Instead the council members took it upon themselves and gave Mr. Buttery permission to open negotiations with the school district. THIS WAS DONE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS !!! They were elected by the people, for the people and its time that we demand that they honer the oath they took when excepting their positions The miss- handling of due process by our city council is a total injustice to this community. I do however want to thank Phil Mella for having the integrity to stand up for what is right. The city council has not been open and forthright in the handling of this project and it has created mistrust within the community. The repercussions of their actions are already beginning to show and we haven’t even started construction.
I met with Mr. (David) Buttery (city manager of Woodland Park) to discuss specific concerns that I had over location of the pool. We did agree on one thing, the council meeting on Dec 17 revealed that 50% of the people were for the H. S. location and 50% were against it. Cost to run the facility is $500,000.00 annually. That includes maintenance, salaries, water, heat ect. This will be covered by $400,000.00 in tax revenues and the city will be covering the rest. The land value estimate is $5.00 per square ft. and up to $10 per square ft. The school will be using approximately 10% of the facility on a daily basis while school is in session. Portions of the contact have been revised and one of them was a reduction in the life of the agreement. Instead of 50 yrs. it is now 25 yrs. So at a minimum we are trading the value of $390,000.00 in exchange for 10% of free use by the school district for 25 yrs. If it cost $500,000.00 annually to run the pool that 10% of school use could add up to as much as $30,000,00- $40,000.00 per year. So our trade with the school will be paid back within 10-15 yrs. This property hasn’t even been appraised so at this point we don’t know what the value is that we are trading for. As the contract reads the school district will have NO FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY what so ever
This decision by council to involve the school district has only cost us time and money. Had council acknowledged the community survey and gone with the Meadow Wood location the monies already spent could have helped offset the difference in cost.
The sports center at Meadow Wood will offer family’s a chance to not only watch their children play baseball and soccer but has the outdoor space for everyone to enjoy. The high school location only offers cement. When council asked Mr. Buttery if the Meadow Wood location was feasible, Mr. Buttery replied yes. Why would we trade for land with the school district when we already own land that is feasible to build on? Councils answer to this is simple, it’s cheaper. Cheaper doesn’t make it right. Instead we should be putting the aquatic center in a location where it can generate revenue, verses giving it away. The school district can then pay us for use of the pool for their swim team practices and swim meats. This could be one of many ways to offset the higher cost of building the pool at the Meadow Wood location. Taking a 10 million dollar facility and placing it in a confined space between two parking lots makes no sense at all.
People are tired of waiting and they just want the pool built but that is all the more reason not to try and fast track this without covering all the issues involved with the location. Rushed decisions are never good decisions. This is when the mistakes are made.
Bottom line is that the city council did not follow proper procedure when deciding on a location. We the people have a right to ask for a say in the location of our Aquatic center. The High School may be the cheapest but when you’re talking about a 10 million dollar project don’t you think that it would be in the best interest of the community to spend a little extra money and build it at the sports complex where a building of this magnitude is better suited. We are the ones paying for this pool. I urge everyone, whether you are for or against the location to attend the council meeting on Jan. 21 and let your voice be heard. Our city council plans to vote on the revised contract with the school district at this meeting. If they vote in favor of this contract the pool will be located at the High School. It does not matter whether you live in the city or the county, your voice counts.