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In order to include the elevated walking track amenity andintegrated seismic upgrades, board approves loan to cover added $2.5 million

In a rare divided decision, the Chehalem Park and Recreation District board of directors voted 3-2 to approve a $5.9 million loan to fund the second phase of the Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center renovation, which will transform the current pool into a gymnasium and expand the fitness area.

The choice before the board at its Sept. 28 meeting was whether to include an elevated walking track and related seismic upgrades at an added cost of approximately $2.5 million for a total project budget of $5.74 million.

The other option was to install the walking track at ground level, which Scott Edwards Architecture and general contractor Triplett Wellman budgeted at $3.2 million.

The remaining funds are earmarked to complete payment on the purchase of property in Dundee, which is due in January, and Triplett Wellman had previously informed the board that it would need to make a decision by last week's meeting in order to begin construction in February or March when work on the new aquatic center will be near completion.

Voting in favor were board president Pete Siderius, Don Loving and Mike Ragsdale, with Bart Rierson and Lisa Rogers voting against the proposal.

"What it comes down to is if we're going to do that improvement, we've got to do it properly," Ragsdale said. "If we didn't take the option that was offered by the consulting team, we would have had a walking track at grade level, on the same floor as the basketball courts, and the confusion would have been too intense."

Ragsdale had requested that staff inquire as to how other facilities mitigated interaction between basketball courts and walking tracks that were at the same level. Parks and facilities manager Jim McMaster reported to the board that in his research about 90 percent of facilities featured elevated tracks and there was little discussion of mitigation options.

To Ragsdale, at least, it seemed clear that because a ground-level track didn't make sense, the choice came down to an elevated track or no track at all. He, Loving and Siderius all expressed that to cut out the track would break a promise they made with voters.

"There's no question in my mind, when we went out to the voters a large number of people that aren't swimmers expected a walking and fitness facility, so we needed to have a walking track," Ragsdale said.

Siderius said that the seismic upgrades, which represent approximately two thirds of the added cost and include replacing the roof, that came with the elevated walking track were an important factor in his voting yes.

"To me, it was very much worth doing to have the seismic upgrades and have the elevated track so that elderly folks and people using the track would not be in harm's way," Siderius said. "That was one of the deciding factors for me. It was pretty much about safety."

Both Rierson and Rogers said they like the seismic upgrades and elevated track, but they are simply too expensive.

"I understand that we only have one chance to do this right, but I'm just not comfortable spending that much more money on," Rierson said. "We have a lot of things we could spend that money on, a long list of projects that won't get done for that much longer."

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