Prineville voters appear to reject aquatic center

Defeat would be second time residents say no

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: November 08. 2006 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – Voters in Crook County appeared to reject a ballot measure to build a new $12 million aquatic center in downtown Prineville.

As of 9:20 p.m. Tuesday with all precincts reporting, the measure appeared defeated by a vote of 53 percent opposed to 47 percent in favor. An operations levy for the pool, which was contingent upon the construction bond passing, also failed.

“I’m just kind of stunned right now. We were getting so much positive feedback that I really thought it was going to go this time,” said Donna Jacobson, co-chairwoman of Volunteers in Action, the political action committee that campaigned in support of the pool.

The measure was voted on by those living in the boundaries of the Crook County Parks and Recreation District, which includes about 8,000 registered voters, according to park district officials.

This was the second time the question of whether to construct a new swim center in Prineville came before voters. In 2002, a measure to issue $7 million in bonds to build a new swim center failed.

This time, due to a rise in construction costs, a feasibility study set the cost of an indoor/outdoor pool center at $12 million, according to officials from the parks and recreation district. The construction and operations levies combined would have taxed voters at a rate of $1.11 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. That means someone with a house assessed at $200,000 would have paid an additional $222 a year.

The plans for the new year-round facility included an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, multi-purpose rooms and a picnic area, according to officials from the district. It would have been located on the current site of Davidson Field on Southeast Third Street in downtown Prineville.

Prineville’s current municipal pool was built in 1953, Jeannie Searcy, business manager of the parks and recreation district, said. It is an outdoor facility that is only open about 2 1/2 months a year. It is leaking water and has serious piping problems, Searcy said. The kiddie pool already had to be permanently closed and children often cut their feet on the rough bottom of the main pool, she added.

Unlike the first pool proposal, this year a political action committee, Volunteers in Action, worked on educating voters about the issue and raising pledges toward the operating cost of the new pool. Jacobson said the group had raised over $121,000 in pledges.

The feasibility study commissioned by the parks and recreation district put the annual operating cost of the new facility at $500,000 to $600,000, Searcy said. Those costs would have been covered by the $50,000 annual operating budget of the current pool, money from the parks and recreation district’s budget, the operational bond and fees for using the new pool.

It’s unclear if and when the parks district will float another swim-center proposal.

“We put so much energy into this for the last two years, and it’s pretty obvious that a good number of people in the community want it,” Jacobson said.

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