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City Council to Meet Tuesday to Discuss Community Aquatic Center Idea - and Possible Land Acquisition

The City Council study session with the Parks & Recreation Commission follows a public meeting on Monday in which residents asked about cost and scope.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Policy goals and the public process need to intersect at some point so direction can emerge. In the case of the possibly building a community aquatic center, a pivotal time might be now.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a study session Tuesday evening in which consultants and city staff will brief elected officials about what Deputy Mayor Tom Odell said would be one of the largest public infrastructure projects in Sammamish in recent years.

The Tuesday agenda also has time for an executive session in which the Council could discuss acquiring property. The city is considering three locations that might be the future site of a community aquatic center: The city-owned Kellman property, near ; land owned by the and near ; and the Southeast Fourth Street property which is near the town center and partially owned by the city.

The property part of the community center equation is important because a decision about the land will help fill in details about design, total cost estimates and financing. 

The property appraisals for the three locations are finished and city staff members are in talks with the land owners about the community center proposal, Jessi Richardson, city parks and recreation director, said.

The City Council could make a formal decision on acquiring property in the immediate future - or members might ask for more time to sort through questions.

The seven-member body's next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 20. The Tuesday evening meeting, which includes the Parks & Recreation Commission, is a study session. The executive portion has time for a "potential property acquisition" if necessary.

"If they make a decision (in the near future), we'll be back as early as July with a preferred concept plan and some cost estimates that are closely tied to the actual site," Richardson said, adding there would be a final proposal to the City Council at some point.

"Right now, we've been working off conceptual numbers."

That was reflected during Monday's public meeting in which about 80 residents gathered at City Hall to listen to architects, consultants and Richardson review information and answer questions.

In several cases, residents peppered consultants and Richardson with questions about debt servicing, the total costs to residents, market penetration, demand for and use of the lap pool and whether other public and private facilities could provide the same or similar services.

Several answers centered around the fact that more details and dollar amounts will be coming - once the location is selected.

In May, some residents and members of the City Council were surprised with the project cost estimates - which ranged from about $64 million to about $68 million. Those prices were for a 98,000-square-foot facility and included a project estimate. That project estimate includes the building.

The cost for a community center building alone might hover in the $29 million range. Parking might be about $11 million. While no financing mechanism has been formally introduced, there has been talk about a property or utility tax

In surveys and at public meetings, some residents have expressed interest in a competition swimming pool - possibly one with eight lanes and diving boards.

But on Monday, consultants said if such a pool was built later, it could shave about $10 million from the initial estimate and tens of thousands of dollars from operation costs. There also has been talk of having a recreation pool. 

"The project will not proceed without the vote of the people," said Keith Hayes, a representative of Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture.

The firm is providing consulting services to the city for the project. Consultants and city staff also pointed out that Sammamish has set aside about $6 million already for the project.

But the vast majority of that money has not been spent, they said in response to a resident's question.

Another issue - depending on how long this process stretches out - is that the City Council has three seats up for election this year. It is possible that a City Council with new members might vote next year on issues affecting a community center, should one be built. 

Several City Council candidates attended Monday's meeting. In terms of a timeline, Barker Rinker Seacat has laid one out for its team working on the project. It includes putting a community aquatic center before Sammamish voters in 2012.

Lena Hanson, a Sammamish mom of two girls under the age of 5 years old, thanked the city for making the efforts to build a community center - especially one close for residents.

"I hope this happens before they're out of the house," she said. "There is something beautiful about having it all in one place."

At least in the near term, Richardson said, it will be up to the City Council to decide whether to proceed with a community aquatic center. Councilmembers have said residents have expressed interest in one - especially given the fact that the city has a large number of young people.

If the Council takes that formal step forward, members will need to determine what the first phase of the project will encompass, financing options and partners.

"There are still a series of decisions that will need to be made after the preferred option report," Richardson said.

Editor's note: The city of Sammamish has posted information about the community center project.

John Galvin, PhD June 14, 2011 at 07:35 PM
At Monday's public meeting for the aquatic center, the 300 pound gorilla jumping up and down with a big sign reading "show me the money" was repeatedly asked to sit down and be quiet. This gorilla will be at Tuesday's City Council study session. Lets see how eager the City Council is to take on the money issue. For the last ten years the Council and city manager have boasted Sammamish has lower taxes and higher services. Too good to be true, I suspect. Higher services mean higher taxes. Anyone for an aquatic center is for higher taxes. Anyone for an aquatic center is for a 30 million to 60 million bond issue. Anyone for an aquatic center is for a revision of the town center plan to make it feasible. The aquatic center and town center are siamese twins sharing one heart. Finally, anyone for an aquatic center is willing to postpone major traffic infrastructure projects for decades. Lastly, anyone for the aquatic center needs to get on board and work tirelessly to make this huge project a reality. This means years of commitment and tireless effort from citizens, city staff, and city council. I don't want to see years of talk, more surveys, more planning, more money on consultants, more what's your dream of the future workshops. If we are going to do it, there will be serious talk about City finances, the town center, and establishing citizen committees.
Valerie Spiegler June 15, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Forget a community center. I have a novel idea. How about a $30 million to $60 million bond issue for the infrastructure necessary to entice developers to the town center sub-area? Instead of a lonely community center sitting on an invisible piece of property, wouldn't it make more sense to develop the phantom town center first, making accommodation for a community center to be built at a later date? This way, the residents in favor of a community center will get one, albeit with a wait of a few years. The property owners caught in the town center boundaries ( who have waited more than a few years) will be able to sell their property/homes if they wish or need to, and get on with their lives. Happiness all around! On a serious note, I still cannot believe that the City is wasting money on plans for a community center when the most important unfinished project (the town center) sits on a shelf. I fervently hope that the November elections result in a Council being elected who will take seriously their responsibilities to the citizens of Sammamish. I hope that a newly blended council will actively work to "realize" Sammamish's full potential and seek to undo the incredible harm this current council has inflicted on so many property owners. Valerie Spiegler

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