Fairfield voters approve $3 million bond issue
Fairfield city residents voted 2-to-1 in favor of building a new outdoor pool and recreation center in Tuesday’s general election.
Public Measure A on the ballot asked residents if they were in favor of allowing the city of Fairfield to enter a bond issue not to exceed $3 million toward the projects.
Community Recreation Task Force members, some of which have been working on the proposal for nearly two years, gathered in the courthouse Tuesday night as voting numbers came in from each of Fairfield’s five wards.
The suspense quickly lifted as evidence of a landslide victory poured in, with twice as many voters supporting the measure than opposing it. A total of 3,086 voted for the measure, and 1,480 against it. The measure required 60 percent of votes in order to pass. And while more people voted yes than no in every ward but one, the 2,020 absentee voters in support of the measure closed the deal, bringing approval to 67 percent.
The projects have been the subject of heated debate in the community in recent months. While most agreed the facilities would improve the city, some argued the town didn’t have the economy to support it, as expressed in Ledger letters to the editor. For Jodi Kerr, finance and fundraising subcommittee chairwoman, Tuesday’s results put any doubts of support to rest.
“We’re very pleased with the strong support the community has shown,” she said. “They do agree and see the need for recreational facilities in the community.”
Kerr said the margin was larger than she expected, as did Mayor Ed Malloy.
“I expected it would be close,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the response by the community at such a convincing level with 67 percent of the vote … I was very relieved.”
While Malloy knew residents had inhibitions, he said it is in the town’s character to support community improvement.
“We are very fortunate to live in a town that supports progress and progressive projects,” he said. “To be able to pass a bond in one election cycle is something that is very much appreciated. Many communities are unable to do that.”
Malloy attributes the victory not only to community willingness, but to the thoughtful work of task force members.
Where other communities might change or adjust a project during a second attempt to win a vote, Malloy said the task force has anticipated concerns and addressed them before the election.
“In this case, there was such good work done in front of the bond vote,” he said.
Kerr said while most response from the public was positive; those who expressed concerns were constructive.
“People had good questions we were able to address,” she said.
For instance, the task force has determined the total budget for both facilities to be $10 million. Some people worried the city would begin construction with the $3 million in bonds and run out of money before the project was finished.
“People were concerned the city would spend the money before the rest of the money was raised,” she said. “We’ll wait until we have significant funding in place before turning a shovel.”
Malloy said they intend to have at least 95 percent of the money available for the project in hand before the project begins. In the meantime, securing the funds is their No. 1 priority.
“I think the strength of the vote will carry a very strong message into fundraising,” he said. “I’m hopeful that phase will take place very quickly so we can move into construction as soon as possible.”
Kerr said she and the task force will launch into private and county fundraising immediately.
“Now the work officially begins,” she said. “We need to come together as a group and focus on fundraising efforts.”
The task force plans to build both facilities as quickly as possible, said Kerr, and have no agenda for building in stages. The group is however accepting pledges with restrictions for use in certain areas of the project. Kerr said the green light on the bond issue will allow the task force to secure donors who have shown interest in the project, but who were hesitant to commit.
“Had this not passed, potential donors would have modified or pulled their pledges,” she said.
Burbach Aquatics designed the pool layout, which will be built at O.B. Nelson Park. The task force has not yet chosen a firm for the gymnasium, which will be adjacent to the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center. The city owns a piece of land by the center, which Malloy said should accommodate the gymnasium, but the city is considering purchasing an additional property to allow for more parking. Malloy said the task force has not made a decision to purchase any land at this point.
While the task force has made decisions on the amenities for each facility, Kerr said there is still room for community feedback. She said the task force will be holding public forums to educate and hear from residents.
Although residents have debated the projects in recent days, Malloy and Kerr realize the work has just begun. And while they know some still resist the idea, Tuesday’s vote has shown them most think it’s worth it.
“You can’t get everyone on board with a project that will ask more from its citizens in property taxes,” said Malloy, “but the community has a longstanding commitment to provide the best amenities, retaining jobs, retaining quality of life and marking Fairfield as a very special place to live. That’s the investment we make.”