Walla Walla The design concept officials said was necessary to keep a proposed aquatics center financially afloat is also most likely the what sunk the $8.7 million levy vote on Tuesday.
According to the Walla Walla County Auditor’s Office, 59 percent of voters said no to the project that proposed building two slides, a lazy river, a splash pad and a wave pool that would have doubled as a lap pool.
Over the last few months, the vast majority of opponents’ letters received by the Union-Bulletin criticized the proposal for having too many frills, no dedicated lap pool and too high of a price tag.
City officials and proponents defended the design and cost, insisting the water attractions were needed to draw in an average of 400 users a day, that the lap pool would have drained the facility of any profits, and that, in spite of the cost, the facility would have operated in the black and put away money for the future.
City officials also noted the unusual funding method — officials could not remember when a voter-approved levy was used for new construction in the past — would have allowed the city to obtain interest rates as low as 2.24 percent, thus saving the city $2 million in interest.
In addition, private trusts had committed $1 million toward the project if approved.
But the levy also would have increased property taxes 50 cents per thousand of assessed value for nine years, which would have come to $90 a year for the owner of a $180,000 home.
Tuesday’s vote was the third time in the last 10 years voters said no to a major aquatics center.
The previous two bond votes were in 2003 and 2006.
The next official count of ballots will be Thursday afternoon.
County Elections officials were unable to estimate how many uncounted city ballots remained, but it is highly unlikely Thursday’s count will turn the tide on the Aquatics Center levy vote.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.