Council sends $10 million park bond to voters for November decision
July 1, 2013
By Peter Clark
NEW — 10:30 p.m. July 1, 2013
Almost 50 people turned up at the Issaquah City Council’s regular July 1 meeting to witness the consideration of the long-deliberated park bond, which passed with a 6-1 vote.
“You can see we’ve gone through quite a process getting to tonight’s hopeful vote,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said. As chairwoman of the Services & Safety Committee, she fostered the bill through a long fact-finding process. “The idea to delay this any longer is not something I would like to see happen.”
The decision follows the Park Board recommendations to the City Council regarding how a $10 million park bond, including $5 million for “life support” for the Julius Boehm Pool, should be spent.
During the past year, numerous information gathering tactics have been employed by the board and the Parks & Recreation Department to ascertain whether citizens would favor a bond and how they would like to see it used. Phone surveys, public meetings and a citizen’s advisory board were employed to gauge Issaquah’s opinion.
On June 24, the board recommended the city approve a bond for $10 million to send to the voters. It included a detailed list of items related to park space and recreational facilities, which focused heavily on repairing the Julius Boehm Pool, improving sports fields and providing money for the city’s continued acquisition of open space.
- $5 million for Julius Boehm Pool improvements
- $1.55 million Central Park Pad 1/artificial turf/sport lighting
- $200,000 for improved field drainage at Tibbetts Valley Park
- $2 million for acquisition of open space
- $900,000 for phase two of Confluence Park construction
- $100,000 for Meerwood Park playground replacement
- $100,000 for Gibson Park playground replacement
- $150,000 for bond and attorney fees
The bond issues voters have approved to finance city services and improvement currently cost taxpayers 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Should voters approve the park bond recommendation, it would raise the rate by about 10 cents, to 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, city Finance Director Diane Marcotte said. The rate would rise from $32 per year to $72 per year on a $400,000 home for the 20-year life span of the bond.
“The priorities from the phone survey that was conducted last summer was very high on protecting wildlife habitat, preserving open space and acquiring land near lakes and streams,” Park Board Chairwoman Danielle Githam said. “And that was still a pretty high priority, but not so much in our public meeting. The primary things that came out there were the needs to repair the Julius Boehm Pool and to improve sports fields.”
Advisory committee participants found value in promoting the city’s concept of a “green necklace,” the plan to surround Issaquah with navigable, protected open space.
“What became clear is that we should focus on the parks that we have and improving them, and we need to also be putting money aside for open space acquisition,” Githam said, but that the committee had a preference for improvements. “Instead of building new parks, we should improve the ones we have. I think the reason that it appealed to our committee is that it meets a lot of the goals that we talked about.
“Developing an existing park, protecting creeks and streams, and improving accessibility walking and trails in the city could also be a critical part of the green necklace.”
The largest amount of support and dedicated money in the approved recommendation went to the pool. Five million dollars was to be set aside for improvements to the 40-year-old pool.
Parks & Recreation Department Director Anne McGill said the bond would only maintain the pool for community use and not expand it.
“We call it life support,” McGill said. “We know it’s not perfect but we’re just trying to keep the pool alive until we come up with a better plan.”
If approved by voters, the money would go to an improved facility entry, a new front desk, expanded staff area, exterior insulation, expanded locker rooms, family changing rooms, elevator access to the upper level, replastering the pool, replacing the bulkhead and improving the pool mechanical system.
“We get a lot of questions about the pool, and we are not increasing water capacity,” McGill said. “We are not adding a leisure component. We are not adding lanes. We’re just repairing the pool to keep it going another 25 to 30 years.”
Though the Park Board supported the recommendations for the bond, there was still discussion about the future of the facility in terms of Issaquah’s population growth.
“Moving forward, the City Council needs to know that the capacity issue is just going to get worse,” board member Jeremy Noble said.
The bill passed the council 6-1, with Councilman Joshua Schaer casting the single nay vote. He had spoken previously about how the bond might not go far enough, and during the July 1 meeting again expressed his wish for more consideration. With the 2006 park bond still being paid for, he felt the new bond was a half measure that could be improved with more time.
“This feels like ordering a bunch of stuff from your Amazon wish list just to get the free shipping,” Schaer said. “I would contend that we can do something different and something better.”
While other council members also shared concerns, in the end they resolved that the bond would be good for the parks and for residents.
“It’s always going to be a moving target,” Council President Fred Butler said. “I believe that we need to make a decision and support our citizens, and form a bond that supports the things they care about.”