Residents of West Linn finally have the chance to vote on constructing an aquatic and community center.

On the Nov. 5 ballot there will be Measure 3-432, asking voters to allow the city to sell general obligation bonds totaling $24 million to construct, equip and furnish a new indoor aquatic and community center.

This vote has been a long time coming. Residents have been clamoring for a pool for nearly 40 years and others have been saying it’s not needed, but it has never been put up for vote.

While we think the vote is long overdue and the dedication of its advocates is to be admired, we don’t think this is the right time or economic climate to pursue a swimming pool and community center.

The city already knows the facility will operate at a deficit of $100,000 without adding programs or arranging for an outside source such as the YMCA to manage it. And, from experience, it may lose even more. Some aquatic centers have major flaws that become real money pits.

If approved, the center will cost taxpayers $152 per year on a home assessed at $285,000, or 53 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The median home value in West Linn is $405,000, which would equate to about $215 a year.

West Linn has other water issues. The century-old Bolton Reservoir is undersized, sits on a slope and is quickly deteriorating. The city’s water infrastructure is also aging, having been neglected for years. Each month the city reports several water main breaks and the city pours money into Band-Aid fixes rather than replacements.

Then there are city streets, which currently average a rating of “fair.” Just this year the city hiked street maintenance fees 75 percent with hopes of bringing that rating to “very functional.”

Add to those costs the police station currently under construction that the city and taxpayers are still paying for. In 2011, voters approved $8.5 million in general obligation bonds for the new facility at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street. The pool and community center would cost three times that amount and will be used to serve select residents who are willing to pay membership fees, whereas the police department serves the entire city.

And, let us not forget that the city slashed $2 million from its biennial budget this year, cutting staff hours and positions, including the parks and recreation director’s hours. Can a parks and recreation director who is limited to 20 hours a week oversee the construction of a project of this size and scope as well as its operation?

Yes, pools are a luxury and are great for fun and exercise for all ages. Yes, a community center is sorely needed in West Linn. Yes, we already have the property near Tanner Creek Park, which is an ideal location. But now is not the right time.

Contract Publishing

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