Earlier this year, when Sammamish city officials and consultants began talking about building a community aquatic center, there was one particular statement that continues to be true.
There are no that anything would be supported or built. But talk about building lap and activity pools, basketball courts and a fitness area in a family-friendly, growing city of and seeing computer designs certainly can whet one's appetite.
But members of the on Tuesday formally expressed "sticker shock" at the for a 98,000-square-foot community aquatic center on the , near .
While the City Council did not take a formal vote to stop the $64 million project, the sense of the elected body was strong enough such that leaders are likely to pause, rethink and reset.
On the table were three parts of the project: A 98,000-square-foot community aquatic center on the Kellman property, structured underground parking and two traffic circles on 228th Avenue Southeast to handle more automobiles.
After consultants presented cost estimates and updated designs, which were part of a feasibility study, Councilman John James was the first to utter what became a popular refrain for his colleagues: "Sticker shock."
In fact, a majority of City Councilmembers uttered those two words that it appears unlikely that a $64 million project would receive formal approval if taken before the seven-member body.
Deputy Mayor Tom Odell said it was similar to having "champagne taste" but a "beer budget."
While James called the design beautiful, he took into account the political and fiscal realities of trying to put the proposal before residents for a vote - something which the City Council has said would be part of the process.
"I don't want to rain on anyone's parade," he said at one point, noting that the $64 million price estimate was likely to include everything in the "kitchen sink."
He said that the project on the table might become reality if enough residents - say, a supermajority in a bond vote - support it. But that would entail hard work, he said.
To finance the project could mean an increase in property tax, if a bond was pursued as the mechanism. City officials said that a $60 million project would cost the owner of a $520,000 assessed home, in 2011, $280.80 per year - or $23.40 per month.
That assumes a 0.54 cent cost per $1,000 of assessed value.
Residents also would have to pay to use the facility, whether it's a daily, quarterly or yearly pass. Facility use, including passes and class fees, was expected to cover 91 percent of the operational costs.
But that left a yearly $267,000 shortfall that city leaders would have to address to fully cover operational expenses.
All of this goes to the question: What are residents in Sammamish, as a whole, willing to pay - if anything - to have access to pools, basketball courts and fitness areas, especially given that Pacific Northwest winters can be long, dark and cold and the number of kids in the city?
Put another way and as Odell asked: What are Sammamish residents willing to give up if there is a sense that a $64 million project is unaffordable?
Keep in mind that the project was proposed after architects and city staff listened to what residents said they wanted and the City Council picked city-owned property that slopes and is in a zoning area that calls for structured parking.
Architects estimate that the overall budget for 300 underground parking stalls would be $16 million. If 400 parking stalls were built on the Kellman site, the cost would be about $21 million.
There was talk on Tuesday that the higher number of parking spaces would be needed. There also was talk about efforts by the Boys & Girls Club of King County Redmond/Sammamish to turn the old library site into a teen club - and how that factored into the picture.
In a sense, only a vote of all Sammamish residents would be a true gauge of their financial tolerance and support of a community aquatic center. As some have noted, many residents are busy with daily life, work and raising kids to attend the public meetings about possibly building a community center.
But at Tuesday's meeting, among elected representatives, the need to reflect, question and analyze was clear.
Councilman John Curley talked about how there is a market need for a sports and fitness facility of this type in Sammamish for residents. He suggested turning to the private sector for the answer - but having the city offer incentives of waived taxes and an inexpensive lease to help the process.
"We make it attractive to them," he said. "If there's money to be made, the free market will find it."
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten dubbed the 98,000-square-foot building a "Taj Mahal."
She suggested renewed talks with the YMCA of Greater Seattle about a possible partnership. "I do support a community center. But I want it to be affordable," she said.
Councilwoman Michele Petitti said she would be more comfortable with a community aquatic center project in the $30 million to $35 million range.
She and other councilmembers talked about the public nature of a community center - especially as a place for people to gather. That was in comparison to the view among some of private sports and fitness clubs, where profit might have more weight.
"We need to roll up our sleeves and come up with a solution," Petitti, who works for the YMCA as Eastside director of development, said.
Earlier, Councilman Mark Cross echoed a similar thought, saying that he hopes that people do not "lose sight of the community aspect of this."
Mayor Don Gerend talked about, as part of his research, visiting fitness centers in Denver and the Seattle area. This included private sports clubs.
"They don't cater to families the way that community centers do," he said.
In the audience on Tuesday was Marcia Isenberger, the Eastside regional director for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. She stood to formally answer questions from the City Council - especially since talk about partnerships again surfaced.
"The Y is here to be a partner whatever that looks like," she said. "We are a good fundraising organization."
After the meeting, she said the YMCA also owns six acres of land near . That land, she said, could support a 70,000-square-foot project, which would include parking.
As a matter of comparison, the portion of the Kellman site which would be suitable for construction is seven acres.
But as consultants and city staff have said before, there are no "foregone conclusions" to anything with Sammamish's effort to possibly build a community aquatic center.
So, the rethinking and resetting portion of this public policy issue will likely follow in the coming months.
Editor's note: Before I joined Patch.com as the Sammamish editor, I worked as a membership services representative at the Coal Creek Family YMCA in Newcastle. Also, Sammamish Patch revised its cost estimate for the project to $64 million.