Only $20 million for pools galore

Julie Jaman and David Goldman
Posted 9/11/19

The Mountain View pool, leased by the city from the school district, is a terrific public asset in this small town. The Parks and Recreation staff of about 20 provides programs for exercise, health …

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Only $20 million for pools galore

Posted

The Mountain View pool, leased by the city from the school district, is a terrific public asset in this small town. The Parks and Recreation staff of about 20 provides programs for exercise, health and fun seven days a week. Most important, it is an unencumbered community asset.

Over the last few years the Olympic YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), known as the Y, has proposed that the community build a debt-burdened luxury facility with rooms and pools galore. The Y has approached a few individuals and city council with various iterations of design, construction and financing plans. The Y architect has provided drawings of a $20M structure similar to Y buildings in large urban areas, but no information concerning the costs to operate such a facility has been provided. Their current proposal is to form a metropolitan recreation district - a junior taxing district. Beyond beautiful drawings and descriptions, the community has no factual information regarding this taxing district.

Currently the city employs the Parks staff but with a metropolitan taxing district contracting Y management there would be a new layer of salaries and benefits for staff and Y administrators. There would be changes in costs to swim; would Y members pay on a different scale than non-members?

For the city there would be increased demands on capital facilities and the campus site including water, sewer, storm water, propane and CO2 footprint, transportation and parking, lighting, noise, and sundry neighborhood impacts.

Mountain View Pool was built in 1962 by the Port Townsend School District. In those times the ethic was quality workmanship and materials meant for generations of use - we are those generations. In the ‘70s a unique winged parabolic roof was added. In 2001 the city hired ORB Organization, Inc., an engineering firm, to evaluate the pool. It concluded $355,000 would extend the life of the pool for another 30 years. In 2012 the city and county put up $150,000 and, with a lot of volunteer help, gave the pool a facelift including some of the Orb recommendations. In 2015 voters passed a $3.6M bond to repair and upgrade the entire Mountain View campus, of which no more than 50% of the debt service was to come from city taxpayers. The buildings were painted, various technological upgrades were made including a new fire alarm system and automatic doors. The pool, as with all facilities, has ongoing maintenance and repair needs and there are plans for improvements in future budgets. Switching to heat pumps similar to the Port Angeles pool would help reduce heating costs.

The Parks staff provides lifeguarding and job training, myriad classes and special events, school swim classes and team competitions (the swim team has the fastest flip turns in the league because they practice in a shorter pool), pool rentals for groups, and tracks the operating systems for maintenance and repair. The current operating budget is approximately $400,000; half from fees and rentals and half from the city Parks budget. The Y has an arrangement with the city to use the existing gym, office space, rec room/kitchen, fields and courts, and the pool.

As it stands now Mountain View, a community commons, is an unencumbered public asset. Should the community vote in a new taxing district and turn this public asset over to a private corporation? For what purposes? Are there alternative proposals such as providing a living wage to Parks employees?

It would be prudent to open up a conversation with the community, not just a survey, but a real discussion about the implications and authority of a property-tax-supported recreation district with a Y-managed multipool structure. And the biggy - does the community want to go into debt to finance such a plan?

Julie Jaman, Quimper Peninsula
David Goldman, Port Townsend

(Julie Jaman and David Goldman wrote this piece after researching documents and existing budgets; both are civic activists.  Julie and her daughters settled here in 1976 and she is an ongoing pool patron and a county resident. David has lived in Port Townsend since 2004. In a former life he was an attorney and as a citizen co-wrote the first draft of what became Port Townsend’s Formula Retail And Restaurant Establishments Ordinance (PTMC 17.54))

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Tom Thiersch

Adding to my comments to the Leader story a month ago at https://www.ptleader.com/stories/municipalities-come-to-taxpayers-for-investment,63848 ...

A Metropolitan Park District (MPD) / Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) levy covering the entire area of the PT School District is unacceptable. I say "No" to the Y.

At $.75 per thousand, an MPD tax would add about $300 per year to the property taxes of the median-priced house in the county, and about $400 per year for the median-priced house in Port Townsend (per Realtor.com and ColdwellBanker.com)

Any added property tax levy would also impact existing taxing districts, potentially reducing their levy income because of "proration" -- ask the assessor. The aggregate limit for cities, counties and most special districts is $5.90 per $1,000 assessed value, and many areas are already very close to that limit.

Don't be fooled. There is no such thing as a "limited" Metropolitan Parks District.

Once in place, an MPD can operate without any oversight, can set its levy rate to the maximum and can incur debt (bonds) without additional voter approval, and can just dissolve itself and leave its debts to the county and city -- all without any accountability to voters. Check out the RCW.

The Washington State law governing the creation and operation of MPDs is RCW 35.61

Function and Powers of a Metropolitan Park District (MPD)

• May purchase, acquire and condemn lands within or without the boundaries of park district. **

• May issue and sell warrants, short- term obligations, or general obligation bonds.

• May issue revenue bonds.

• Can petition for the creation of local improvement districts.

• May employ counsel, provide for park police officers, secretary of the board, and all necessary employees.

• May establish civil service for employees.

• Has power to regulate, manage and control, improve, acquire, extend and maintain, open and lay out, parks, parkways, boulevards, avenues, aviation landings and playgrounds, within or without the park district.

• Has power to authorize:

o the conduct and manage the letting of boats, or other amusement apparatus,

o the operation of bath houses,

o the purchase and sale of foodstuffs or other merchandise,

o the giving of vocal or instrumental concerts or other entertainments,

o the management and conduct of such forms of recreation or business as it shall judge desirable or beneficial for the public, or for the production of revenue for expenditure for park purposes.

• May sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of surplus property.

• Can annex territory.

** The power of "eminent domain" (RCW 35.61.130).

Just say "No" to the Y.

Thursday, September 12