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Letter to the Editor: Why I am Voting Yes for the Community and Aquatic Center

Judy Petersen, of Sammamish, responds to a recent Local Voices post by Christie Malchow discussing the pros and cons of the Community/Aquatic Center issue.

Dear Editor,

As a member of the Yes! – Sammamish Community and Aquatic Center committee, I would like to respond to Christie Malchow’s very thoughtful Sammamish Patch article on this issue.  

I am also a Sammamish Parks Commissioner, but these opinions are mine and those of the Yes! Committee and are not intended to represent the Parks Commission as a whole.

Christie Malchow has written a very thoughtful post that raises several questions a lot of people are asking about the proposed Sammamish Community and Aquatic Center.  Like her, I believe that swimming is a critical life skill.  (I currently drive from my home in Sammamish to the Coal Creek Y in order to give my grandchildren an opportunity to learn to swim.)  But unlike her, I have made up my mind on this issue:  My vote will be a resounding “Yes!” 

As a member of the Sammamish Parks Commission, I am acutely aware that numerous polls of our citizens have indicated a strong desire for an aquatic center right in the heart of our city.  We live in a young community and need a family-oriented center, with a pool that allows for all ages and abilities.  Lap pools at local fitness centers are not suitable for young children.  The recreational pool proposed for our community will have a shallow entry, a water slide and other fun features as well as life guards.  And the proposed lap pool will have equipment that allows for handicapped entry. 

I know a lot of us believe there are other, competing uses for these funds.  But more than half of the dollars for this community and aquatic center would come from restricted funds: the Parks and Recreation capital budget.  The City Council moved other parks construction projects forward to beyond 2015, to free up these funds.

Once built, the community and aquatic center will be an asset, owned by the city.  The Y will take on all operating and maintenance expenses, something they have done at all their facilities for more than 140 years.  If the Y were forced to close their doors, it would be a first. They have never been forced to close a facility in a young and thriving community such as ours.  And because the Y is nonprofit, it raises funds through donations and grants, allowing membership fees to remain low. 

By the time we build this facility – if we build it – my grandchildren will be well beyond swimming lesson age.  But in a community with so many young families, I would like to ensure that every child has an opportunity to learn to swim.  It is a critical skill.  And that is why I am donating my time to the “Yes!” campaign and that is why I will vote “Yes!” on Proposition 1.

Judy Petersen

Christie Malchow October 18, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Judy, I agree with your thoughts as they pertain to the pool & its use for young children, but your response doesn't comment on my main concern: if the construction costs are higher than anticipated (and they almost always are), will the City take more funds from the reserves or will they levy a tax? If the possibility is an increase in taxes, I'll end up in the "no" camp. Having moved here from Kirkland where my property taxes were much lower, I don't want to fund a facility that I likely won't use (others have told me they wouldn't use either). If I knew for certain a potential future tax levy were impossible, I'd end up in the "yes" camp.
Vincent Cucinelli October 18, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Why aren't alot of the details of the facility being outlayed for citizens as well. If my tax dollars are going towards a facility, how come we don't even know costs to use it at this point. You want a yes vote on something that the city or Y isn't willing to fully disclose or make any sort of guaruntees on. You've now also got other groups such as the Issaquah Swim Team making it public they are working on a partnership on something that hasn't even been voted on yet. What else does the voting public not know?
Jeanne Gustafson October 19, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Folks, thanks for your comments so far. In answer to some of the comments, just as some points for clarification, the estimated cost to use the facility is $115 a month per family or $65/month per adult, though it's not finalized. Representatives of the YMCA said at the recent public meeting that it would be assume responsibility for operating costs for 40 years under the proposed agreement, even in the event of losses. I haven't heard a definitive answer to Christie's question about taxes related to construction overruns.
Vincent Cucinelli October 19, 2012 at 12:50 AM
It was also stated in that meeting by a council member, I believe Tom Vance, that their would be clauses in place for either party to back out of the deal depending on certain situations. If that does happen then I'm assuming the facility would revert back to the city having to foot the bill which then would most likely cause an increase in tax dollars to cover operational and maintenance costs. Also why would residents of other cities such as Snoqualmie who paid for only a portion of their facilites receive a discount on their monthly rates but there has only been a discussion at this point for Sammamish residents? I know in Snoqualmie their residents receive about a 28% discount on their montly dues, and only a portion of that facility was paid for by the city, with our tax dollars footing 100% of the cost and possibly more, I would expect an even better deal for Sammamish residents. I understand the pricing is not finalized but it seems like there should be some definitive pricing at this point so we could make a more logical decision on the cost of monthly use as that can weight in on a families decision on the facility.
Christie Malchow October 19, 2012 at 02:00 AM
I'm about to update my blog post (referenced above in this letter to the editor) with a reply from the City about my questions.

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