Board debates potential tax increase for $14 million in rec center improvements
October 26, 2012
If one thing came out of Monday's Windsor Town Board work session, it's that the $14 million path to a new and improved Community Recreation Center equipped with updated aquatic activities and fitness programs is likely to be paved with controversy and a whole lot of discussion in 2013.
An ad hoc committee formed in May to explore possible funding options after the direction of the town board unveiled its findings Monday, suggesting that much of the project could be paid for through grants and strategic partnerships, in addition to a clearly controversial proposed 0.57 percent sales tax increase that left the board vexed and toeing the starting line of a philosophical debate.
"I'm concerned about spending that kind of money," said Mayor Pro-Tem Kristie Melendez. "Times have changed dramatically. We have households in distress. I think the playing field has kind of changed."
The increase would bring the rate in Weld County's share of Windsor to 6.67 percent.
"They (residents) support this but they don't want it to affect their tax," Melendez added. "I will support what this community and what the people want, but I don't think that I'm convinced that we're quite there yet."
While proposed tax changes would remain lower than in many neighboring communities, several board members questioned the size of the project and budgetary demands, especially in light of other costly improvements slated for the next few year.
Plus, the CRC only has a 14 percent cost-recovery plan in place currently. Though that would rise to upward of 60 percent, the board was still not sold it would be the most responsible use of town dollars.
While seemingly everyone agreed the project will be left to a vote in 2014, the initial decision hinged on how to proceed while dancing a delicate line regarding endorsement moving forward. The committee estimated $30,000 would be needed to keep the project moving forward so architects could develop plans and information could be put into the community.
That number didn't sit well with Jeremy Rose, who repeatedly questioned the intent of public education on the project. Though he agreed the final undertaking should be left to the voters in 2014, he and others wrestled with how to decide whether to shoulder the requested $30,000.
"I think it (the center) would be amazing for our community to have," Rose said. "But at some point we've got to step back and give some thought to what we're doing."
Beyond the funding part, he raised concerns that such a large project could run other area gyms and fitness centers out of town — a concern committee members said was addressed during the study and found to be untrue.
Robert Bishop-Cotner agreed, noting that similar facilities have been put in place across the country while independent gyms continue to operate successfully. To him, some people will just naturally go to private gyms while families will be more drawn to the new rec center.
"The truth of it is, not everyone's going to get run out," he said after drilling committee members on similar projects.
As the meeting, which went from an informational discussion to a ideological debate, came to a close, Town Manager Kelly Arnold recommended the board tread carefully on the issue and simply take it all "under advisement" until a later date, adding that he will follow up with the board every 30 days to see where the consensus stands — something all, including Mayor John Vazquez, agreed on.
"I think it needs some time to mature a little bit," he said, adding later that the committee's presentation was "exactly the information that we needed to start the conversation."