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Pool decision will take more talk

Farmington mayor Todd Larson said he wants a clearer picture of how a new aquatic center will fit into the city’s budget before making a decision on whether to build the facility.

For Farmington City Council members and members of the city’s parks and recreation commission, that will mean at least one more workshop meeting.

The city is considering whether to replace its aging outdoor pool with a new facility that could cost from $7 million to $10 million depending on options. The facility would be built on land in the Jim Bell Park and Preserve located north of 195th Street. The current proposal includes a lap pool, a splash area, a lazy river and water slides, with options that could add a slip-n-slide style mat racer, an inner tube slide and more.

There was support for the plan at a workshop meeting held last week, but Larson said he’s heard more concerns elsewhere in the community.

“Outside of the (meeting) room I haven’t heard great support for it,” he said. “What I’m hearing mostly is people saying, not really the cost of the pool but the cost of getting into the pool. People are used to paying $3 to $4.”

Projections for the new pool show the facility making an operating profit of $22,537 while charging $5 for admission. Similar facilities in other cities charge as much as $10 for admission.

To pay for the pool the city would likely have to ask voters to approve a bond referendum. For a $7 million project, that would add about $70 per year to the taxes on a $200,000 home. A $10 million project would add $100 to the taxes on the same home.

It is also possible the project could get even bigger. The master plan for Jim Bell Park and Preserve includes fields for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse, as well as hockey rinks and a warming house. If the city decides to ask residents to pay for the aquatic facility, it could ask for more money to build some or all of those other features at the same time.

Ultimately, Larson’s questions came down to money, and how the aquatic facility fits into a budget that also includes requests for a new fire truck and an expansion of the city’s ice arena, among other things.

“In my opinion, the capital improvement plan is first — the ladder truck and the streets,” Larson said. “That’s really the job of the city. The core job. The amenities like the pools and the senior centers and the ice arenas come after that.

“There’s a way to do both. It’s going to cost money, but there’s a way to do both.”

The city council and parks and recreation board have scheduled another workshop for June 30. If the project moves ahead, the city will likely place a referendum on the November ballot.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606