Town board spars on $14 million rec center improvements, urges caution moving forward
January 18, 2013
Clarifying its position on a potential $14 million Community Recreation Center expansion, the town board on Monday agreed that more information was needed before it could responsibly pour money into the project, which everyone agreed will ultimately need to go to a communitywide vote, likely in 2014.
An ad hoc committee explored the issue in 2012 after a previous survey indicated there was some support in the community for the project. The proposed project could include a natatorium equipped with water slides and a lap pool, among other amenities. It could also bring in updated fitness areas, including a running track and aerobics rooms, as well as a child care area and better locker rooms.
The board has acknowledged that local gyms could see a shift in business, and it has urged partnership exploration to help with funding. Beyond that, since the development would be so costly, board members said they want to cautiously dig into the issue so as to not officially endorse the project before it ever takes off, potentially swaying voters.
Board members said Monday that the careful discussions have left the community puzzled about the path forward, prompting Mayor John Vazquez to summarize the board's sentiments about where the process currently stands.
"We are neither in favor nor opposed to this project," he said. "We are in favor of gathering good information. We are in favor of making sure that information is made available to everybody. We are in favor of exploring options in how this project could potentially be funded. I think even as we go through this entire process, our position always is going to be to have the community tell the seven of us what their wishes are, and we will implement those wishes. I don't think we should take a position one way or the other."
Monday's discussion hinged on whether the board should shoulder a $30,000 "public education" initiative that would include, among other things, 3D artist renderings of the development, painting what parks staff called clearer picture of the project.
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Board member Ivan Adams maintained that moving ahead with the project is a must for the community and would bring Windsor to the forefront of communitywide recreation.
Mayor Pro-Tem Kristie Melendez saw things a little differently.
She has repeatedly cautioned that there are several other necessary projects coming into "the pipeline" across the community that will require funding including water needs and community infrastructure — needs as opposed to wants. Though she said she still hopes the project can move forward, she urged staff to further explore alternate funding streams and communitywide partnerships before giving the green light.
"I don't know what the hurry or the rush is," she said, at time sparing with Adams and Vazquez about putting this project so high on a priorities list. "I think we need to spend some time to fully investigate all of the possibilities we have. I'm saying I want to take our time on this issue."
Moving forward, staff will explore the slew of questions posed by the board including partnership explorations and whether $30,000 for better drawings was really necessary or if current diagrams would suffice.
If the board does decide to proceed, it would likely adopt a resolution that explains the rationale behind the move forward and exactly what it would mean, highlighting that it was not necessarily an endorsement.
Regardless, the topic stands to polarize deep into 2013.
"I think that we're getting ahead of ourselves in this process," said Don Thompson, adding that he has been a long-time supporter of parks and recreation. "Before we take the steps of saying, 'Hey here's the design, here's the model,' I think there's a lot of questions we need to answer ourselves."