Options differ in services and funding

A bond measure to fund a community aquatic and recreation center may be pushed back once again to the May 2013 ballot.

Two members of the former aquatics task force spoke to the city council during its Monday work session about their research progress. The task force was dissolved after completing its objective of creating an April 2011 report.

The proposed pool and recreation center would be built on 7.5 acres off Parker Road, near Tanner Creek Park, and would include a recreation pool with room to add a competition pool, indoor sport courts, an elevated running track, a fitness center with studios and amenities such as patio seating, a snack bar and recreation space for teens.

Construction is estimated to cost $22 million. For taxpayers, that translates to $143 a year per $240,000 of assessed property value.

Members of the city government and the community spent the last few months seeking requests for information to identify potential partners.

The city explored five different approaches to build and operate an aquatic center.

An interview committee was created to speak with potential partners. The committee included parks and recreation staff, former members of the aquatics task force Nancy King and Vicki Handy, the president of the advocacy group Citizens for West Linn Aquatic Community Center, a parks advisory board member, a representative from the budget committee and a member of the police station steering committee.

The committee looked at the different models of building and operating an aquatic center, focusing on community needs, capital requirements, quality of operation and integrity of the proposals. These models suggested that:

• The city could fully fund, build and operate the facility, a situation similar to that of the North Clackamas Aquatic Center.

• A project management firm could help the city fundraise, plan and build a facility and then the city would take over full operation.

• In a turnkey approach, a development partner could build and run the facility and then turn it over to the city once it received return on its investment.

• The city could enter a public-private partnership with the city having a controlling percentage.

• The city could fund the construction of the facility and contract with a nonprofit operator, similar to the Sherwood YMCA.

The committee met with four different organizations, including the nonprofit YMCA of Columbia-Willamette, interested in operating a city-funded facility; project management firm Day CPM; RKM Development, proposing a public-private model; and CSI Oregon, interested in a turnkey model.

Interim Parks and Recreation Director Ken Warner said, 'There really are not a lot of public-private models that we've found in this type of facility.' He added that the model has been used to build golf courses, however.

At the meeting, Handy said she was excited about the public-private partnership model because it would reduce the capital expense.

'I think all of us would like to see that (cost) cut in half,' she said.

Warner said each model provides a different level of service and funding, and the city needs to find what the community wants in a facility and at what price.

At the work session, the council directed city staff to proceed with creating a community survey to gauge community support and find the preferred model.

'Realistically, it's a much longer process than we thought it would be,' King said. 'This has to be a transparent process.'

With that, King and Handy suggested the bond measure should not be included on the November ballot but perhaps in May 2013 instead.

'I feel November would be premature,' Handy said.

'I really commend you on this process,' City Councilor Jody Carson said. 'I think this is an excellent proposal. I really want this to be successful.'

The city will move forward with creating and distributing the survey before any new actions are taken.

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