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Paynesville Press -September 1, 2004

City, township to vote on revised aquatic park

By Michael Jacobson

City and township residents will vote on a revised pool proposal in November at the general election.

Pool sketch Last week, the Paynesville City Council and the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors each approved asking voters to approve bonding for an aquatic park.

Their action comes four months after the original aquatic park proposal was rejected at the polls. In April, city and township residents rejected a $1.25-million aquatic park proposal. The vote in the city was 292 for and 281 against, while the vote in the township was 257 for and 305 against.

Since then, the pool committee has met with both the city council and the township board, agreed to revise its proposal and spearhead another election campaign, enlisted help from the community, and revised their proposal.

Their hope is that a less expensive proposal might gain more favor with voters, and the current plan calls for a total cost to taxpayers of $990,000, including bonding costs.

If approved in November, the project would be a joint city-township venture, but only for construction. Just like the original agreement, the city and township would share construction costs on a 62:38 basis, meaning the city will be asking voters to bond for $615,000 for the project and the township will be asking voters to bond for $375,000 for the project.

While the city and township would build the facility together, the township's involvement would then end at construction. The city would operate the aquatic park alone and be solely responsible for operating costs and maintenance.

At the request of city and township officials, the pool committee revised its proposal, with the current plan costing less than a million dollars to build. Cost savings in the new plan come from reducing the size of the pool (roughly from 6,500 to 5,100 sq. ft.); from reducing the size of the bathhouse (by 400 sq. ft.); and by fundraising for amenities.

While amenities are viewed by pool supporters as crucial to the long-term success of the aquatic park - water slides, fountains, and diving boards are fun, keeping swimmers entertained and encouraging repeat visits - the pool committee decided that they are not essential at the start, Greg Hansen, co-chair of the pool committee, representing Paynesville Township, told the city council last week.

The community will hopefully say "yes" to a smaller pool project, added Hansen.

The pool committee broke into three subcommittees - on design, fundraising, and public awareness - in revising the aquatic park proposal. The first goal of the fundraising committee is to raise $150,000 for a water slide, said city administrator Steve Helget. The goal has always been to add amenities to the aquatic park to keep the public interested in attending the facility. In the scaled-back version, an aquatic park layout would be built - with a lap pool, diving well, and splash pool with a beach-style entry - but amenities like slides and sprays and fountains would need to be added later, added Helget.

With the overall cost lowered, taxpayer impact of this proposal is less. Both the city and township plan to bond for 15 years to pay for the construction. The estimated annual tax increase for a $100,000 residential homestead in the city for this project is now $56.54 (down from $70.42 for the original proposal). The estimated annual tax increase for a $100,000 residential homestead in the township is now $36.04 (down from $45.43 for the original).

With the smaller pool size, maximum capacity of the proposed aquatic park has been reduced - from 371 of the original to 293 now. The operating costs for the aquatic park are still estimated at $66,250. The aquatic park, with heated water, could operate from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The township board approved putting the pool proposal on the November ballot again by a unanimous vote. In the city, the vote was 4-1 with council member Harlan Beek voting against putting the proposal to another vote.

Still needed, though, is school district participation. The proposed location for the aquatic park is the high school athletic field between the student parking lot at the high school and the armory. While the city and school district had reached an agreement to use this property, that agreement expired when the votes failed in April. Essentially, the school district had agreed to donate the land for the project - and share the use of the high school parking lot - in exchange for city help in maintaining the parking lot and the school service roads.

School board approval of a similar agreement for the proposal aquatic park is pending.

Though classified as a special election, voting on the aquatic park will take place at the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Because this vote will be done in conjunction with the general election - which requires voting judges, etc., already - costs for the vote are minimal.

Should voters approve bonding for this project in November, engineering and construction could be done in 2005, said Helget, with the aquatic park opening in 2006.

aquatic chart

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