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Residents vote against bond for rec center

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Swimmers participate in a high school swim meet at Salt Lake County’s Gene Fullmer Recreation Center in West Jordan. Residents recently voted down a bond that would have seen the city bond for their own aquatic and recreation center. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com    

In an overwhelming vote of 75 to 24 percent, West Jordan residents voted against a city bond that would have seen an aquatic and recreation center built at Ron Wood Park, 5900 West New Bingham Highway. 

Had the bond been passed, an estimated $46 million would have been issued to acquire, construct, improve and equip the center. 

“I never felt like it would pass,” said Mayor-elect Jim Riding. “I think the people out there did not want that tax increase.” 

The bond would have meant a tax increase of $54.51 per year on a home valued at $245,100 and $99.12 per year on a business or secondary residence. 

Proponents of the bond felt the recreation center strengthens the city’s image attracting more residents and businesses to the community. It would also support the economy, proponents argued, bringing in people for the various competitions or simply serve as a competitor to rec centers outside city limits. 

But detractors said there were too many unknowns surrounding a new recreation center such as ongoing costs and sustainability. The concern is that even though $46 million pays for construction, there are still the employees needed to staff the facility and the fees that go along with using the facility.

Detractors also pointed out that there are local gyms and fitness centers nearby questioning how appropriate it is to compete with against those businesses.

Riding said he’d prefer to wait for ZAP (Zoo, Arts and Parks) funds to become available before considering a recreation center. ZAP is a county program aimed to enhance art, cultural and recreational offerings.

Even with that money, though, he said he’d rather have the county build and operate it.

“We’re paying money all the time as citizens to the county. To have additional drain on our city resources would have been very difficult,” Riding said, adding rec centers aren’t “typically money makers for the city.” 

He estimated it’d probably be $2 million a year in operational costs, and even with the ZAP funds, a bond would still need to be passed. 

“But then the county would build it and operate it, and it would be a beautiful building within the city limits and a great amenity,” Riding said. “But we wouldn’t have the financial burden that this was going to put on the city. That was my biggest concern.” 

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