Aquatic center faces tall task
About the only local aspect of the upcoming November ballot vote of any intrigue is the operation levy for the Madras Aquatic Center.
No doubt the pool-backers face an uphill battle. The economy is still soft, the local school district (whose boundaries the pool district shares) just passed a $26.7 million bond measure in the spring, and there are a lot more taxpayers who don't use the pool than do use it. Historically, general elections are bad times to run local levy requests as more casual (oftentimes less motivated to vote yes) voters participate as opposed to off-year or special elections.
Those are some of the major aspects working against the pool measure this fall. Then there's the general contention of mismanagement, more perceived than reality, that has put pool operations in the quandary in now resides in. I'm not sure James Carvel and Carl Rove working together (perish the thought) could figure out a way to get it passed right now.
But whether one decided to support the pool bond, we need to take a realty break. Even if you don't back the MAC, per se, don't trash the MAC.
Anyone who says that the MAC is not an impressive swimming facility that our community should take great pride in, that it is not a substantial community asset, is flat wrong. Just because you personally may not use it doesn't change the fact. The MAC is among the best swim centers east of the Cascades. The numbers of kids MAC official Bobby DeRoest has brought into his swim sports teams is phenomenal, and the visitors it brings to town for events (bolstering our economy) are substantial.
Hundreds of our local kids have learned how to swim -- a lifesaving skill -- at the MAC. How much is that worth?
The pool has been underfunded at the $25 per $100,000 tax rate. That rate was the victim of the time it was established. Back when it was presented, in 2004, when pool "yes" votes were hard-fought, property values were high and growth in the area was thought to be assured. Organizers knew they had to offer a low operation levy or it would have likely failed, as pool efforts here always had. They bet on the come, essentially, as did so many people and businesses back in the heady days of 2004, figuring their tax revenue would grow, not receed, as has happened.
Still, the $25 a year per $100,000 property is truly a drop in the bucket for such an important community facility. The ask this election season is for another $40, pushing the amount to $65 a year -- still a drop in the bucket for pool backers (about 18 cents a day), but getting a little high for fence-sitters.
My 5-year-old is (slowly) learning to swim at the MAC. I know how important the facility is to our community. I personally have no problem voting yes -- though I think the levy backers face a monumental task to find 51 percent support.
Whether or not the bond measure passes in November, the push to stabilize MAC funding must continue. And the talk that the facility is too fancy for Madras, that we should have just built a concrete outdoor pool, or nothing at all, should subside. Such talk is now irrelevant. The community decided to build a high-quality swimming facility, and we have one.
Whether or not the bond passes in November, whether you vote yes or no, realize that our community has already invested in our outstanding aquatic center. We couldn't go back even if we wanted to. Whether you back this particular levy or not, we should all be contributors to, and proponents of, a strong operation base for the MAC, whatever form that takes, now and into the future.