Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2019

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Boulder City residents to decide if new $27M aquatic center is worth higher taxes

Boulder City Pool

Courtesy

A rendering shows a $40 million pool complex that Boulder City residents will vote on in June.

Boulder City residents will soon vote on a hotly debated topic in town: Should the city borrow up to $40 million to replace its critically outdated swimming facility?

The Clark County Debt Commission approved on Feb. 7 Boulder City’s request for two ballot questions this June regarding the city’s 40-year-old aquatic center.

The first question will ask Boulder City voters whether they approve of the city spending $5 million from its Capital Improvement Fund “to design and construct a new aquatic center.” The second will ask if they support the city issuing “up to $40 million in bonds” to design and build the new facility.

If the second question passes, the city will pay for a new aquatic facility by borrowing the money in general obligation bonds and through a property tax levy. If only the first question passes, the city will need to come up with an alternative way to pay for a new facility.

Built in 1979, the current facility does not meet modern health codes, is out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is constantly in need of expensive repairs, city officials say. Open year-round, the facility suffers from failing pipes, problems in the mechanical room and general aging infrastructure, said Roger Hall, director of Parks and Recreation for Boulder City.

“A lot of things are going wrong with the pool being 40 years old,” explained Hall, who also served as the first pool manager in the 1980s.

Officials in Boulder City, a town of 15,000 residents 26 miles southeast of Las Vegas, have been discussing the possibility of replacing the pool for the past two years, said Lisa LaPlante, the Boulder City communications manager. Based on community feedback, the city has selected a tentative plan for the new facility, which would include a main lap pool, a four-lane programming pool, a fitness center, a racquetball court, a group exercise room and a meeting room.

The main pool would be about the same surface area of the current pool, but deeper for competitive swimming. Broadbent Park, where the facility is located, would retain the same amount of green space once the new facility opened.

Estimated construction costs would come out to $27 million. To pay for the pool, residents would see their property taxes increase by between 2.7 percent and 3.6 percent per year over the next 30 years, if they approved the bond borrowing. But that timeline, as well as the costs, could change.

“It depends on if we get the pool paid off early,” LaPlante said.

Last fall, a survey that was sent to a representative sample of 375 residents indicated considerable community support for a new pool. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they would prefer that the city build a new facility rather than repair the existing one, and 46 percent said that they or someone in their household would “definitely” use the new aquatic center.

In addition, the city presented community members with three potential options for the new facility last year before selecting the most popular option: the working $27 million proposal.

But when the city posted about the ballot question on its Facebook page on Feb. 7, some residents expressed qualms about the proposal, particularly when it comes to the costs for taxpayers. As of Feb. 12, the Facebook post had racked up 29 comments, many of which express enthusiasm for the proposal but some of which voice reservations.

“Why is it $40 million or nothing? Why does it need meeting rooms, a kitchen and a gym facility that will compete with local businesses?” asked one commenter, Hainsworth Hunt.

“$40 million? That is a price tag we cannot afford. The city needs to build something reasonable. We don't need Magic Mountain BC,” said another commenter, Doug Herman.

Others emphasized the importance of building a new pool for the future of Boulder City.

“Let’s set a precedent to attract new residents who want to invest their time and efforts back into the community,” said Laura B Miller-Johnson. “We need this pool to draw attention to why Boulder City stands tall above the rest of the valley.”

For many in Boulder City, aquatic sports are an important part of the community. A pool that meets current standards is sorely needed for the city to continue to offer its popular swimming programs, said Mike Polk, head coach of the 12-time Nevada state championship swim team, the Boulder City Henderson (BCH) Heatwave.

“This is a matter of we either have a pool or we don’t have a pool, because the current one is done,” Polk said. “We’re either going to replace it and have a facility, or we’re not going to have it all.”

Over the years, BCH Heatwave and the Boulder City High School team have produced star swimmers such as Olympic hopeful Zane Grothe. But today, neither team is able to host meets at the pool because it no longer meets standards for the leagues, said Katie Tyler, the other coach of the BCH swim team and a former BCH swimmer herself.

“The pool provides so much for our community,” Tyler wrote in an email. “It is one of the homes for BCH swimmers year-round. Kids in Boulder City are able to walk to the pool for practice right after school every day.”

Both Polk and Tyler also emphasized the intergenerational offerings at the pool.

“Kids can start in Parent Baby/Tot Class at 6 months old and there are participants in their 90s in the Water Aerobics class (and something for everybody in between),” Tyler wrote.

If the ballot questions were to pass in June, the city would then finalize a design for the proposal and select a contractor for the project. Construction of the new main pool, which would be adjacent to the existing pool on the east side of Broadbent Park, would take about two years.

“We don’t want to have to close the swimming pool while we build a new one,” Hall said.

If the ballot questions fail, the city would continue to operate the existing pool for as long as possible, and might re-pose the idea of a new pool to voters in November 2020.

Ahead of the municipal election on June 11, the city plans to continue meeting with residents about the proposal and share updates on social media, LaPlante said. She encourages residents to check out the city’s special website for the pool, bcnv.org/pool.

Polk said that while he is open to a variety of pool proposals, he hopes that residents will understand the need for some sort of new aquatic facility in order to maintain the quality of life in Boulder City.

“What actually ends up going to the voters, I guess we’ll see, but I’m definitely in favor of coming up with something that allows us to continue [this] very important part of the lifestyle of the town,” he said.