Pool estimates should spur feedback, not sticker shock
Most people are familiar with the term sticker shock — that moment that a purchase looks attractive and you are ready to act … until you see the price tag. Reluctance often follows or sometimes disbelief, and next thing you know, you decide now is not the right time.
Hopefully, the local public has not reacted this way as early estimates for a new swimming pool have been disclosed by the pool advisory committee. Costs determined by a recent feasibility study land around $9 million, for a virtual replica of the outdoor pool we have now, to around $23 million for an indoor facility with many amenities that surveys suggest residents want.
Yes, these are high numbers, totals that advisory committee chair Wayne Looney has publicly acknowledged were concerning to disclose. But the price tags don't tell the whole story, nor are they the final numbers. So, local residents shouldn't let sticker shock enter the picture yet.
First, it should be noted that people leading the pool effort have every intention of finding ways to reduce cost. That might mean scaling back amenities that the public may decide they can do without.
The other important consideration is the committee is proposing a bond that distributes the expense across the entire county as opposed to people within the parks district alone. According to feasibility study data, if the county files for a bond measure instead of the parks district, the cost per thousand dollars of assessed property value is cut in half.
Now that the numbers are disclosed, the pool project leaders will turn to a professionally administered, scientifically valid survey to determine what the public will support. Would people sign off on a bond if some features are eliminated and the cost lowered? Would parks district taxpayers support a county-wide bond at a lower rate, or more importantly, would county voters outside the parks district take on a new tax for the community-wide benefit of a new swimming pool? Does the majority of the voting public want to bag the idea altogether?
Pool project leaders hope the survey answers these questions and others and helps them decide what they will do next. Not only should local voters be willing to participate in the survey if they are selected, other residents with opinions one way or the other should take the time to contact the parks district or any other local leader who has a stake in the outcome of this effort.
Now is not the time for sticker shock. Instead, now is the time to speak up and make your interests and concerns as well as your preferred price known. The more information project leaders have, the more likely it is that they will present a final number that reduces the risk of sticker shock as much as possible.