Pool/gym vote fails Tuesday
For the second time voters in the unincorporated parts of Jefferson County defeated a proposal to support the estimated $10 million project to build a new outdoor pool and a new gym in Fairfield.
County voters were asked to allow 16 percent of Local Option Sales and Service Tax funds to be diverted from property tax relief to the pool/gym project up to the amount of $1 million or 10 years, whichever came first.
Tuesday, the unofficial results show 475 no votes to 395 yes votes, a difference of 80 votes. Tuesday’s total number of 870 votes is 25 percent of the 3,532 eligible voters in the unincorporated county.
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors will canvass the votes at 11 a.m. Monday at the courthouse.
A 25 percent voter turnout is higher than August’s 11 percent voter turnout for the same ballot question. In August, county voters cast 211 no and 185 yes votes.
The question was put to the voters again after the pool and gym task force committee gathered more than 600 signatures on a petition, which it gave to the board of supervisors in mid-December.
“A lot more people turned out this time to vote,” said supervisor chairman Dick Reed Tuesday night at the courthouse as poll workers brought the ballots to the auditor’s office. “But it’s a lot less than how many eligible voters are in the county.”
Joe Carr, a member of the pool and gym task force, said the defeat was disappointing. He also was at the courthouse Tuesday evening to hear the ballot results first-hand.
Two more pool and gym committee members echoed his sentiment today.
“This is obviously disappointing,” said Dan Breen, who has worked more than two years on this project. “As I walked through the process this time, I realized some people weren’t interested and had entrenched ideas.
“The committee is still pursuing significant grant money and it was made clear that the Community Attraction and Tourism grant wants to see county support for this project,” said Breen.
Tom McMahon, another community member who has devoted years to this project, said the committee and the community need to understand what this vote means for the CAT grant.
“We asked for $1.8 million from the CAT grant, and now [Fairfield] Mayor Ed Malloy, [pool/gym committee member] Jane McMahon and I will give a presentation in Des Moines March 12, and we’ll have to update the grant panel about this vote,” he said.
“It’s very disappointing. Based on people I’ve talked with in the past months, I had expected a positive vote of support,” said McMahon. “I’m happy the voter turnout more than doubled this time.”
Breen said the county has a history of not supporting initiatives in Fairfield, including the library, the county jail, the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center and the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.
“I’m just a volunteer, wanting to help move this project forward,” said Breen. “Now, it feels there is no shared vision.”
He said the city will decide how the project moves forward.
Breen said he thought the vote would be close, but he hadn’t known which way it would go.
“I’m not a politician,” said Breen. “I personally did what I thought was right. It seems the people who voted no don’t care what happens next. And we don’t know what happens next. We’re in a tough spot.”
McMahon said Fairfield’s vote to support the project with $3 million passed with more than 60 percent approval in November 2012.
“As a community, we’ll need to move forward,” said McMahon. “We’ll have to raise more funds somehow. But it’s tough to lose out on $1 million from the county and maybe some or all of the $1.8 million CAT grant.”
The unofficial votes Tuesday were:
• Blackhawk and Polk townships: 11 yes; 42 no; 53 total.
• Buchanan Township: 39 yes; 51 no; 90 total.
• Center and Cedar townships: 120 yes; 100 no; 220 total.
• Des Moines and Liberty townships: 28 yes; 49 no; 77 total.
• Lockridge, Round Prairie and Walnut townships: 21 yes; 119 no; 140 total.
• Locust Grove Township: 12 yes; 13 no; 25 total.
• Penn Township: 18 yes; 37 no; 55 total.
• Absentee ballots: 146 yes; 64 no; 210 total.