Residents support bond for parks, pool
July 31, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Conservation to protect wildlife habitat and creekside land is a priority for Issaquah residents, more so than other parks and recreation projects.
The information comes from a survey commissioned by city leaders as the initial step in a process to pass a multimillion-dollar bond measure to fund future parks projects. Data from the survey also addressed a bold proposal to create a special taxing district in the Issaquah School District to fund upgrades to the aging Julius Boehm Pool.
Overall, most survey respondents supported a $10 million proposal for open space, parks and to renovate the pool. Respondents indicated strong support, too, for efforts to conserve open space for wildlife habitat, plus land near creeks and streams.
The proposed bond measure discussed in the survey garnered support from 76 percent of respondents.
The city-contracted polling firm also quizzed school district residents about a larger possible bond measure — $21 million — for a major pool renovation and a special taxing district to fund the overhaul. Officials, backed by survey data, said many pool users come from outside Issaquah city limits.
Though a majority of respondents in the school district backed both proposals, a representative from the polling firm cautioned City Council members about the depth of support.
“It’s good that there’s majority support,” said Andrew Thibault, a principal at EMC Research. “It’s a bit surprising, because when you’re asking people to become part of a taxing district, you generally don’t get good support. There’s definitely some positive information here, but there isn’t anything in here that tells me that if you went forward, you would be successful.”
EMC Research conducted the telephone survey for the municipal Parks & Recreation Department from June 14-20.
Voters could decide bond measure
Overall, 600 respondents from throughout the school district participated in the survey. The total includes 300 respondents from inside Issaquah city limits.
The district stretches from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton.
City Parks & Recreation Department staffers commissioned the survey as city leaders considered a bond measure to raise funds for park development and open space acquisition. The issue could appear on the ballot as early as November, but the timing decision is left to the council.
Though the measure could go before voters in November, a 2013 ballot measure is more likely.
The last city park bond — for $6.25 million — passed overwhelmingly in November 2006.
The council received a briefing on the survey results from Thibault and Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill. Officials focused on possible solutions for the 40-year-old pool facility.
McGill estimated a $5 million renovation to make stopgap improvements to the facility could extend the lifespan by 10 to 15 years.
King County built the pool in 1972 under the Forward Thrust program — a series of bonds passed in 1968 and 1970 to fund parks, recreation facilities, roads and other infrastructure. The county transferred the pool to the city in 1994.
Concerns about pool age, users drive decision
McGill said a proposal to create a special taxing district guarantees a complicated process to educate and reach out to elected officials and residents to cities inside school district boundaries — Bellevue, Renton, Newcastle and Sammamish, plus unincorporated King County.
Or Issaquah officials could consider different fees for pool users — less for Issaquah residents and more for users from elsewhere.
“It’s not that I want to stick it to anybody else,” Council President Tola Marts said. “It’s just that if the folks who are going to use it the most say they are willing to have a taxing district and folks who use it less say they’re not willing to have a taxing district, well, you know, OK, then maybe what they do is more of a user fee-based model.”
Thibault said support outside Issaquah is certain to erode if a measure did indeed appear on a ballot. The survey did not specifically target likely voters.
“We don’t have any sense of where the people who would actually be voting on this measure, what their support would be,” Thibault said.
By the numbers
EMC Research surveyed city residents about Issaquah parks facilities, and city residents and Issaquah School District residents about the Julius Boehm Pool.
Pollsters conducted 600 interviews of registered voters in the city and the school district. The margin of error for the Issaquah sample is plus or minus 5.5 points. The margin of error for the school district sample is plus or minus 4 points. (Some percentages may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.)
Top funding priorities
- Protecting wildlife habitat
- Preserving natural open space
- Acquiring and protecting land around creeks and streams
- Repairing Julius Boehm Pool
- Improving walking, hiking and biking trails
Support for $10 million bond measure
Support: 76 percent
- Somewhat: 44 percent
- Strongly: 32 percent
Oppose: 18 percent
- Somewhat: 7 percent
- Strongly: 11 percent
Don’t know: 5 percent
Overall condition of city parks
Positive: 80 percent
- Excellent: 27 percent
- Good: 53 percent
Negative: 14 percent
- Only fair: 13 percent
- Poor: 1 percent
Not sure: 6 percent
Overall condition of city trails
Positive: 70 percent
- Excellent: 21 percent
- Good: 49 percent
Negative: 9 percent
- Only fair: 7 percent
- Poor: 2 percent
Not sure: 21 percent
Overall condition of Julius Boehm Pool
Positive: 18 percent
- Excellent: 2 percent
- Good: 16 percent
Negative: 27 percent
- Only fair: 18 percent
- Poor: 9 percent
Not sure: 53 percent
Issaquah School District residents
Expanding tax area for pool
Support: 67 percent
- Somewhat: 34 percent
- Strongly: 34 percent
Oppose: 27 percent
- Somewhat: 14 percent
- Strongly: 13 percent
Don’t know: 6 percent
Support for $21 million bond measure
Support: 63 percent
- Somewhat: 39 percent
- Strongly: 24 percent
Oppose: 32 percent
- Somewhat: 16 percent
- Strongly: 16 percent
Don’t know: 4 percent
Source: EMC Research