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Paynesville Press - November 10, 2004

City, township voters reject aquatic park proposal

By Michael Jacobson

City and township voters rejected a proposed aquatic park for Paynes-ville at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The pool project was resoundingly defeated in both the city of Paynes-ville and in Paynesville Township.

Voters rejected the proposed aquatic park by margins of 792-466 in the city and 541-323 in the township.

The city and township had proposed the joint construction of an outdoor aquatic park and asked voters to approve $990,000 in bonding to build it. The city and township had agreed to split the construction costs at a ratio of respective populations, 62 percent for the city and 38 percent for the township, or $615,000 in bonds for the city and $375,000 in bonds for the township.

This proposed project first came before voters in April 2004. After two years of study by an ad hoc pool committee, with city and township members, a $1.25-million proposal was put to voters in a special election last spring. Voters rejected that proposal by margins of 381-292 in the city and 305-257 in the township.

These votes were close enough that city and township officials agreed to put the question to voters again at the general election, where costs for a vote were minimal since voters were going to the polls anyway.

Last summer, the pool committee revised its proposal, reducing the size of the pools slightly, shrinking the size of the bathhouse slightly, and including the infrastructure for amenities, like slides and fountains, etc., but leaving these play features to be added later. In so doing, they reduced the scale of the initial construction from $1.25 million to under $1 million.

The corresponding tax impacts for residents for the proposed bonding also went down with a smaller project. The estimated property tax increases for both city and township residents were reduced by a third for the revised pool proposal.

Both the city and township would have bonded for 15 years, so tax increases would have been in effect for 15 years had the measure passed.

The proposed aquatic park would still have been located on the grounds of Paynesville Area High School, facing Highway 23.

Instead of a closer vote, though, the proposed aquatic park failed by a greater margin this time at the polls. In the city, the pool lost by a margin of 89 votes in April but lost by a margin of 326 in November. In percentage terms, the proposed pool project had 43 percent of city voters in favor of it in April (with 57 percent against it), but had only 35 percent for it in November (with 59 percent against it).

In the township, the margin against the pool was 48 in April but grew to 218 in November. In percentage terms, 46 percent of township voters favored the pool project in April (versus 54 percent in opposition) but only 36 percent supported the project at the polls in November (versus 60 percent against it).

Voter turnout at the general election in November was much greater in both the city and township, but a majority of these additional voters also rejected the proposed pool. Unlike last spring at the special election, not all voters in the city and township cast ballots on the pool issue in November, with a small percentage in both the city and township leaving the question blank.

The city's agreements with both the school district (for use of the school location) and with the township (for the joint construction) terminated when the November vote failed, according to city administrator Steve Helget. The proposed aquatic park will be on the city council's agenda on Wednesday, Nov. 10, added Helget, to see what the council wants to do now that the vote for bonding has failed again.

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