Committee decides to keep rec center plan as is

All or nothing was the sentiment of members of the recreation center steering committee Monday night when they decided not to cut any amenities from a proposed recreation center without giving voters a say in the matter.

In order to get the cost of the proposed center down to $8.6 million, the six-lane lap pool, a community meeting room with a caterer's kitchen, racquetball courts, teen and senior centers and aerobics and dance rooms were proposed to be phased into future construction. But committee members wanted the final decision to be left to voters, so they asked the project's consults to run the numbers on a facility that includes all those components plus a shooting range, fitness center, elevated walking track, expanded gymnasium and leisure pool.

The decision to eliminate some of the components came after a community meeting last month at which participants were asked to use a dot system to choose the amenities they wanted and those they didn't.

"In the end I don't think there was a clear message, but in the end I think we seemed to figure out what was important and what wasn't," said Andy Barnard, with Sink, Combs, Dethlefs, the consultant hired for the project. "Let's back it down. We'll still look at the overall picture, but plan for phasing it in."

Including the amenities cut brings the cost of the facility to an estimated $12 million, a price a professional surveyor will determine if voters are willing to pay.

The survey process should begin in June, with potential voters being asked what amenities they want and what they'd be willing to pay.

"We want community members to get what they want," Craig resident Beth Gilchrist said. "We don't want them to vote no because something they wanted isn't included."

The most viable financing option for the project -- no matter what amenities are included -- is a combination use and sales tax, said finance specialist Dan O'Connell.

A use tax alone probably wouldn't get support from a bonding agency, he said, because it's a volatile revenue source.

"You've got to have a balance of funding mechanisms," election consultant John Britz said. "You've got to have a level stream as well as the one that fluctuates."

A 1-percent sales tax increase would cover the cost of an $8 million project. But committee members said they thought that was too high, so they are considering requesting a combination of a 2 percent citywide automobile use tax and a .5 percent sales tax, which could generate more than $1 million. The money would be used to cover the construction debt and the operational costs of an $8 million facility.

Steering committee members believe an additional $3 million could be raised through foundation grants and community fund-raisers.

It is expected that the facility could be 70 percent self-sufficient, but a tax increase would be needed to cover the rest.

The committee will meet again once the survey is complete to evaluate its results.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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