For the week of July 7, 1999  thru July 13, 1999  

Rec District considers two north valley projects for bond issue

Express Staff Writer

An election could be held in November on a $10-million bond issue to fund three major recreation facilities in the Wood River Valley.

Last September, the Blaine County Recreation District board of directors voted to hold a $3.5-million bond election for a Community Recreation Center, to be an expansion of the existing Blaine County Aquatic Center in Hailey. That election had been considered for Aug. 5.

However, at a meeting on Tuesday of last week, board members agreed that it would make more sense to hold the election in November.

In addition, the board discussed the possibility of adding to the bond issue funding for an over-$5-million hot springs pool in Ketchum and a $700,000 playing fields facility in the mid valley.

Though the addition of the two projects will raise the cost of the bond considerably, board members viewed the addition of the two projects to be a means of attracting county-wide support for the bond.

According to recreation district director Mary Austin Crofts, the question of whether to add the Ketchum pool to the bond came about following a meeting with Ketchum officials on May 18, in which Crofts presented plans for the Hailey recreation facility.

The bond issue would never pass, "if there is not a north valley project to compliment (Hailey’s)," Ketchum Councilwoman Chris Potters said during the presentation.

As for the addition of the Mid Valley Fields project, Crofts said the rec district had been looking at the plan for a number of years. When Sawtooth United, a non-profit youth soccer group, came forward and saw the opportunity to fund the project through the rec bond, it was decided to include the program in the bond issue, Crofts said.

The addition of the north valley projects would increase the bond to $10 million. This translates into a property tax increase of approximately $11.25 per $100,000 property valuation. To pass the bond would require a 67-percent two-thirds vote.

Crofts said the board will decide by September 16 whether to set the election for November and to add the Ketchum pool and Mid Valley Fields projects to the bond.

Crofts said factors in making the decision will include the district’s ability to solidify costs, the degree of public support, procuring a joint powers agreement between the rec district and the city of Ketchum and confirmation that the district can secure land leases and water rights.

The Community Recreation Center in Hailey would include a 7,250-square-foot multi-use gymnasium with basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and climbing wall; a 8,000-square-foot fitness area with an optional 7,000-square-foot second floor; and a 11,500-square-foot indoor aquatic center along with a 4,300-square-foot outdoor pool.

Construction of the facility would also include refurbishing the nearby Fox Acres Barn into a community center geared toward teenagers and families. It would be open free of charge to the public and include teen lounge and game rooms.

Architect Dale Bates said the barn could be preserved and treated as an icon or historic signpost that would make the entire facility look more interesting.

Operational costs for the rec center would be provided by membership enrollment and day use by residents and tourists. According to a feasibility study, the rec district anticipates 2,800 season pass members. Annual membership fees would be $300 for singles, $480 for couples, $600 for a family of four and $120 for seniors and youths.

Wood River High School senior, Karie Haugen said the community rec center is all about teens having a place to go.

"Teens don’t have any place to go where they feel they are accepted," Haugen said.

The Bald Mountain Hot Springs Pool Facility in Ketchum would be located at the park & ride lot at the intersection of Saddle and Warm Springs roads in Ketchum. According to Bates, the facility will be designed to serve a wide scope of needs, compliment the community rec center in Hailey, and fit the style of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The facility would be heated by natural thermal hot water taken from the Guyer Hot Spring.

Included would be a 2,100-square-foot multi-use pool that will be open year round. The pool, 3.5 to 4.5 feet in depth, would be sheltered and partially covered and accommodate activities such as lap swimming, swim lessons and aqua-aerobics.

A 6,000- to 8,000-square-foot active fun pool, up to 8 feet in depth, would be open from March to November, feature a water slide and be used for lap swimming and lessons.

The facility would also include three 200-square- foot hot springs therapy pools of varying temperatures, along with individual hot tubs that would be open year round.

Preliminary cost for the Ketchum pool facility is $4 million to $5 million, plus an additional $1.3 million for the thermal hot water.

Ketchum City Councilwoman Chris Potters said the pool would be a buffed-out facility designed with rock and that attention would be paid to aesthetic values. Potters said the cost for the natural thermal hot water could be paid-off in seven years compared to paying for natural gas.

Hulen Meadows resident Betsy Stoll said she supported the larger bond and would like to see the north valley pool included with the rec center in Hailey. Stoll said the Wood River Valley has become so exclusive that the average person doesn’t have a place to go. She added that with property values so high in the north, north valley residents would pay the majority for the bond.

"If you give the north valley residents something to vote for, they will vote for the bond," she said.

Realtor and developer Jed Gray said that if the Ketchum pool was not included in the bond the rec district would run the risk of making the bond election a north vs south county issue.

The Mid Valley Fields project, located at Ohio Gulch, is to include two high school and two junior size soccer fields, along with basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. The facility will also include a baseball/softball field, picnic pavilions, rest rooms and rec district storage units.

According to project designer Brian McCoy, open space and soccer fields were the number-one needs identified by the community in a rec district master study survey conducted in 1992.

"A strong need for soccer fields will draw people to the polls to vote for the rec bond," McCoy said. "The soccer community is where you have to start for support of the bond. We can deliver at least 1,000 votes."

Gray said the Mid Valley Fields project would fill a void of active recreation in the mid-valley. Gray said the project would be geared toward family activities and would provide a place where both north and south valley residents could come together.

Gray said if the vote is held in November, rather than August, the bond issue will reach a broader section of the community. Potters agreed the community is more fragmented during the summer vacation months.

Rec district board members Tim Hamilton and John Shay said an August bond election would be too soon if the north valley projects are to be included in the bond.

County Commissioner Leonard Harlig argued that "a November election expands the opportunity to get the word out and educate voters on what they will get for their money."

Bates said that in adding the north valley projects to the bond and asking voters to approve a larger bond, the rec district is taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.

"The rec district is trying to envision the recreational needs of the community over the next 10 years and provide future opportunities for the youth and the community as a whole," he said.

"We have to consider who the recipients of the bond will be," Potters said. "The recipients will be our children. This is something the residents of the Wood River Valley have asked for for years. I can’t believe that parents would deny children this opportunity."

However, recreation district director Crofts said she is concerned about losing all three projects by adding the north valley projects to the bond. However, she added that it is time to step back, look at local needs, and try to address the recreational concerns of Blaine County.

"The priority is for the youth," Crofts said. "All three projects will be good for the young people of our community. It’s time to do something for the youth."


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