Sunset Empire Park and Rec expansion rendering

Rendering of a proposed expansion of the Sunset Recreation aquatic facility.

Sunset Rec prepares for ‘next time’

By R.J. Marx

Seaside Signal

The Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District board of directors met for the first time since the $20 million bond to expand the rec center failed at the polls, 2,786 to 1,463, with almost two-thirds of the voters opposing the measure.

“Obviously it’s a disappointing result but we’ll keep moving forward,” the district’s executive director Skyler Archibald said at the Nov. 20 meeting. “But while we weren’t successful, it was a really positive experience for us. Even people critical of the financial burden that they would bear were supportive of the project in general.”

Board members considered factors like timing, building costs and unanswered questions in the bond’s lack of success.

“It wasn’t that people said ‘we don’t need this,” board member Jeremy Mills said. “Just that this was not the right moment.”

Board member Mike Hinton said he was disappointed that members of the City Council failed to get behind the plan.

“For the council not to endorse this is disconcerting,” he said. “But there were councilors who didn’t endorse a new library.”

Need for facilities

The bond would have funded the expansion of the aquatic facility and provided indoor recreation space at the Sunset Pool.

The measure called for construction of a recreation center featuring gym space, tracks and fitness rooms, with parking and site improvements. The estimated tax rate for the 20-year bonds was estimated at 70 cents per $1,000 property value, or $140 annually for a home with an assessed value of $200,000.

On the heels of the Seaside School District’s $99.7 million expansion in 2016 and a strong plea from the county for a new jail, board members recognized the stress on taxpayers.

“Timing is everything,” Mills said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with that.”

Archibald said staff will be revisiting expansion “down the road.”

“If we could somehow need less money or find some other mechanism to fund it, I’m convinced this would be a great improvement to the community,” Hinton added.

Indoor recreation space will still be a need going forward, he said.

Board member Veronica Russell didn’t rule out expansion. “Let’s put it on pause for a little bit and move forward later.”

Board chairman Alan Evans asked board members not to lose focus on the need to expand. “Planning accordingly well ahead of time is a good idea for us,” he said.

Editor

R.J. Marx is editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette, and covers South County for The Daily Astorian. Reach him at 971-320-4557 or rmarx@seasidesignal.com.

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