Aquatic center plan raises concerns
A Sandy resident expressed concern at the Monday, May 7, City Council meeting that plans to upgrade the Olin Y. Bignall Aquatic Center and the proposed Sandy Community Campus could be detrimental to privately operated facilities while proving a cost burden to the city.
"I'd like to implore you, the council, to move forward on this project with caution," said Stan Pulliam. "Several cities of similar size and scope have run annually at a loss."
Paul Reed, co-owner of Mt. Hood Athletic Club, echoed Pulliam's concerns about the expense to the city.
"As far as an indoor pool facility (goes), it is a money pit," Reed said, citing examples of other cities around the country that have attempted to construct similar facilities. Many of them lost money, and in order to make up revenue had to add other fitness amenities such as classes and gym equipment, which then put them in competition with local businesses.
That was part of the discussion Monday evening when, with a few changes to its urban renewal plan, the city took another step forward with the Sandy Community Campus project.
Planning Director Kelly O'Neill, Jr. and City Manager Kim Yamashita proposed language changes and amendments to the Sandy Urban Renewal Plan, one of which injected direct verbiage about the proposed aquatic/recreation center. The revised passage directly addresses the "construction of an aquatic and recreational facility, and construction of other uses as approved in the Sandy Community Campus Master Plan" and lists which amenities may be covered.
The text was also revised to read more tentatively, showing what the council "could," not "would," do.
"We wanted to make (the plan) consistent with whatever construction for the Sandy Community Campus (looks like)," O'Neill explained.
When the floor was opened for a public hearing on the matter, Pulliam expressed his concerns with the plan for the old Olin Bignall Pool and the proposed new Sandy Community Campus. He said he worried that not only would the city be operating at a loss because of the expense of an indoor pool facility, but that it would compete with and possibly harm business for local aquatic and fitness facilities such as Mt. Hood Athletic Club.
In response, Yamashita said the city hoped and had expressed in the past that any additional amenities that may be added to the community campus would merely address "needs" in the community, such as offering services at a reduced charge or offering equipment not otherwise available, which she noted would be meant to foster a "symbiotic" relationship between the campus and local businesses.
The council approved the resolution to amend the plan.
The Planning Department's fees were also increased with a vote by council. O'Neill recommended a 6.8 percent increase on most services in order to recoup staff time and labor. This hike comes after about five years without an increase. Developers and those proposing new construction will be the most affected.
The council approved the resolution to create the new policies, but asked that the approach be more incremental in the future.
"We as a council have historically chosen small steps," King noted. "This will set us on the path of small steps in the future. ... I'd also like to point out that one of the council's policies is that new development and growth pay for itself."
In other news, after about a year and a half on Sandy City Council, Councilor Don Hollis tendered his resignation for a term that does not expire until December 2020. His announcement comes on the heels of Councilor Olga Gerberg's recent resignation, and before her seat has been filled. Applicants for Gerberg's seat also will be considered for Hollis' position at a future council meeting. Applications were due on Monday.
Hollis was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.