Council mulls aquatics-center proposal, YMCA interest

Kent City officials want a specific time line from the YMCA of Greater Seattle about a potential partnership between the two entities to build a new aquatics center for Kent. The request comes as the City Council mulls over whether to ask voters to approve a tax measure for a new facility. Such a measure, if approved, could go on an Aug. 19 election ballot.

Kent City officials want a specific time line from the YMCA of Greater Seattle about a potential partnership between the two entities to build a new aquatics center for Kent. The request comes as the City Council mulls over whether to ask voters to approve a tax measure for a new facility. Such a measure, if approved, could go on an Aug. 19 election ballot.

City staff explained at an April 30 workshop that the Council must decide by its May 20 meeting the May 27 filing deadline for the August election. The next election after that would be Nov. 4, and city officials would have until Aug. 12 to decide if they wanted to proceed with that election.

John Hodgson, city chief administrative officer, said he has asked Robert Gilbertson Jr., president of the YMCA of Greater Seattle, for a specific time line on how many years it would take the YMCA to raise funds to help build an aquatics center for Kent.

YMCA officials initially estimated anywhere from three to six years.

“Six years is a long time,” Hodgson said at the Council workshop. “I told him we need an answer before the Council would decide on whether to partner.”

Gilbertson does plan to talk the city about a time line, but it has not happened yet, said Linnea Westerlind, communications director for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, in a phone interview last week. She expected the conversation between Gilbertson and city officials to take place this week.

Last fall, city staff proposed an 80,000-square foot facility at an estimated cost of $48 million to be built on a 14-acre site south of West Meeker Street and east of Naden Avenue. The facility would include a 25-meter competitive lap pool, a leisure pool, a therapy pool, a gym with an elevated track above it, a small fitness room and party rooms.

City officials also are considering a bond measure for a phased construction plan at an estimated cost of $20 million. The initial phase would include an indoor competitive pool, an indoor therapy pool and an outdoor recreation pool. A gym and fitness area would be added at a later date.

Councilman Ron Harmon asked city staff to hire an independent source to evaluate the Kent Meridian pool and provide an estimate on how much longer the facility could last.

“The key is the longevity of the pool,” Harmon said at the April 30 workshop. “Will the pool last another three years? We need a drop-dead date for the Kent Meridian pool.”

Hodgson said staff would get an estimate on the life of the existing pool to help the Council with its decision.

Harmon said he would like to know if the city can get a few more years out of the Kent Meridian pool to give more time to pursue a partnership with the YMCA.

“The YMCA came to the table late but I do not want to discount them because they’re here late,” Harmon said. “I want to embrace it because it’s a different avenue to get the pool built.”

Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said a partnership with the YMCA might take too long to get a new facility built.

“People may promise timing, but things get in the way of a good plan,” Ranniger said at the workshop. “I’m thinking we should let the community have a voice in this.”

Council President Debbie Raplee said she prefers a proposal for a full-scale aquatics center and wants to be sure the city has a strong proposal with funding options by potential partnerships spelled out before going to the voters.“My concerns are we go to voters and they say no and we end up building a pool anyway,” Raplee said. “Then if we have to go voters for something in public safety, they’ll vote it down because they will figure we will find the money anyway.”

Councilman Tim Clark also fears a no vote on a scaled-back proposal. “It’s a real risk to take it to voters and they vote it down,” Clark said. “If voters say no, and the only way we can solve the problem is to push something through Council, then we would stiffing the people who said no.”

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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