Voters urged to approve local water park

The proposal for the Walla Walla aquatic center is well designed and financially feasible.

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A community the size of Walla Walla should have its own water park.

But two attempts to fund an aquatic center failed -- one in 2004 and the other 2006. Perhaps some thought them too grand or expensive? The why is only speculation.

Nevertheless, the folks who put a third proposal on the ballot have tried to address concerns about previous proposals. This has involved long meetings where interested citizens shared their ideas in give-and-take exchanges. A compromise was reached.

We believe the end result -- the proposal on the Aug. 7 ballot -- is a well thought out plan that will result in an affordable aquatic center that will serve the needs of the community.

Now is the time to approve construction of a water park with features that attract children (young and old).

The soft economy makes this a tough time to approve an increase in the property tax. We get that.

But that also provides a good opportunity to stretch tax dollars. The interest rates are at all-time lows and construction costs are down.

This project is estimated at $8.8 million. It will include a wave pool (that can be used as a lap pool), water slides, a lazy river, a shallow pool with play structures and a spray pad. It's a well designed park.

To this point, $1 million in private money has been donated to the project. The remainder of the capital project will be funded by taxpayers through a 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation property tax for nine years. But if more money comes in than expected the City Council can either reduce the tax or pay off the loan early. We like the second option.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department has done an outstanding job of crunching the numbers to make sure income from ticket sales and passes will cover the day-to-day expenses and more. The projections, based on a daily admission price of $5 for kids and $7.50 for adults, are conservative and seem very reasonable.

Income should be enough to cover expenses but also allow money to be saved for maintenance and adding new water entertainment features in the future.

Still, we understand many are against this plan because they believe any water park is unnecessary -- they want a simple, Olympic sized pool like Memorial Pool, which was closed in 2006.

A pool simply would not pay for itself. Times have changed.

In the past, Memorial had driving boards. Few pools have those today as the insurance cost is considered too high.

Kids, teenagers and young adults are not particularly interested in splashing around in a pool for very long -- and they wouldn't want to pay to do it.

Valley residents now make the drive to Pendleton and Milton-Freewater for its water park on hot summer days. The cost of gas can be more than the admission fee.

We believe people -- particularly young people -- will spend many summer days at a Walla Walla aquatic center. We urge voters to approve this proposal on the Aug. 7 ballot.

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