Supervisors mull contribution to gym, pool project
Members of the new outdoor pool and gym task force came to today’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting to learn about the board’s options of financial support to the project.
Last week, the supervisors had discussed holding a vote among residents in the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County to approve a half-million dollars to help build a new outdoor pool at O.B. Nelson Park and a new gym with courts and a walking track adjacent to Roosevelt Community Recreation Center.
After 90 minutes of discussion today among board members, task force committee members and Jeff Heil, financial advisor from Northland Securities, the supervisors agreed to have an action item for Monday’s meeting.
“Let’s put it on the agenda for next week,” said supervisor Dick Reed. “We can say what we think we’d like to present to the taxpayers.”
Heil suggested three ways the board of supervisors could participate in funding the project for a new pool and gym.
• The first option was along the lines the supervisors had discussed last week; using part of the Local Option Sales Tax revenue.
“Right now, you’re using L.O.S.T. as property tax relief,” said Heil.
The county currently dedicates 20 percent of the L.O.S.T. funds to bridges and culvert improvements and 80 percent to property tax relief.
Heil said the county would have to change the designation of those funds through a citizens’ vote.
“That’s the easiest way to use the L.O.S.T. funding for the pool and gym project,” said Heil. “It would not be a new tax, it would just change the use of the tax for a specified number of years.”
• Another way the county can fund the project is to create an urban renewal area in Fairfield in conjunction with the city.
“You would not have to go through an election, but instead could do a grant to Fairfield and it would be paid for with property taxes from the whole county,” said Heil. “A joint urban renewal needs a 10-day notice and public hearings.”
• The third way to donate funding would be to use cash and borrow money to pay for normal costs in the budget the cash would have paid. Again, this way would not need a vote by citizens.
“City residents, including myself, had the opportunity to vote [funding by authorizing the city to bond for $3 million] up or down on this and I think county residents need the same chance,” said supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt. “I think the funding should go to a citizens’ vote.”
Supervisor Becky Schmitz said she agreed it should be put to a vote, but asked Heil if the board could combine a few of the options outlined. He said they could.
“I don’t disagree [it should come to a vote] but I think the amount is not appropriate,” said Jodi Kerr, task force member. “I know several people wanted to vote in the last election.”
November’s presidential election included a ballot question for Fairfield city residents only to fund the project.
Reed said he’d heard similar comments.
“I started the discussion last week suggesting the county pitch-in $1 million, that would be more proportionate to the population, but it takes two board members on a three-member board to approve anything,” said Reed. “It’s not beyond the time to decide. We haven’t finalized it. And I see it [having a new pool and gym] as economic development.
“Sports in the U. S. are a huge factor.”
Dimmitt said from revenue currently generated in the county’s L.O.S.T. revenue, he feels $500,000 over five years is more realistic.
“I think passing $1 million would be a lot harder,” said Dimmitt. “To me, $500,000 is more easily passed.”
Supervisors agreed to have numbers to be able to tell the public next week — the amount the county would contribute and citizens would vote on, as well as the tax impact the action would have.
Task force spokesman Dan Breen addressed the board of supervisors before the discussions.
“We have two dramatic needs in our community, an outdoor pool and a gym,” he said. “We are way behind neighboring communities in these facilities.
“I’d also like to clear up any confusion; the county was always going to be asked to be a part of this project,” said Breen. “There is nothing frivolous proposed here.
“Our schools play a tremendous role in trying to provide all the gym space for sports practices, but we know kids are getting up at 5 a.m. to have 6 a.m. practices, and some go as late as 7:30 or 8 at night,” he said. “And that’s just for school sports.
“Employers in town support this project based on wellness programs,” said Breen. “I’d like to clear up another myth: county kids don’t participate. Of course they do. Lots of kids participate in school sports and non-school sports.”
Breen took it upon himself to analyze the membership at Roosevelt community center. He said he went by zip code, though it wasn’t an exact count because many people use post office boxes, and those could represent students and/or county residents.
“Roosevelt is an old school, with a weight room and some racquetball courts and indoor pool,” said Breen. “It does very well for the space. It has more than 2,000 adult members registered. I went through each registration and made a spreadsheet; I counted 30 percent of membership are county residents or possibly students; 62 percent are Fairfield residents and 8 percent live outside Jefferson County.
“The building would be a valuable economic development asset,” said Breen. “It’s this type of amenities families are looking for and older citizens want; an indoor place to walk or run.”
Traveling teams coming to play basketball or volleyball in a new gym bring friends and families who spend money in the community on food and gas.
“With the momentum of donations pledged, we can build these assets for less public money than any other time,” said Breen.
He said the proposed county contribution of $500,000 is one-twentieth of the cost.
“I’d ask you to consider a higher number, but we’d use $500,000,” he said. “What’s at stake? People are becoming a little over-confident; we have more to go.”
The task force is fund raising $7 million in the private sector. Pledges and donations stand at $3 million, and $4 million more is needed to be able to use the city’s pledged $3 million.
“The county plays an essential role,” said Breen. “If the county doesn’t support this, we also will lose out on grants. Every dollar matters. We’re looking for support and I hope you can find a constructive way to invest in this.”
Another task force member, Tim McMahon, said the committee is “chasing all possible revenue,” and has applied for several grants, including private grants from corporations.