West Linn Aquatic Center

15 years after the 1998 bond to secure land for the Aquatic Center, this council put a measure on the ballot for the voters to decide. This community value dates back 40+ years and is one that has been studied multiple times. Below are my remarks from last night’s council meeting. I’d like to highlight one important fact — the City purchased Parker Road in 2010 and we currently have debt on the property. Our annual debt payment is $114,000. The aquatic and recreation center, as proposed, will operate at a $75,000 loss. If the bond is passed, the property will be paid off and the operational expenditure will be less then our current debt payments, thus resulting in net savings.

Text of speech:

I come to this desk conflicted about the aquatic center. It has been a long windy road for all the proponents; however, we still have serious concerns we need to address in West Linn. On kitchen tables for the last several years, families have separated their budgets into two categories – needs and wants. In this councilor’s mind, this is clearly a want.

The needs still exist in our community – aging and breaking water pipes, street improvements, sidewalk and pathway connections, just to name a few. If the aquatic center is placed on the ballot and does pass, that does not mean our needs go away. If fact, this councilor will fight hard to get them addressed. I am also concerned the economy hasn’t recovered adequately. The last time we met in this very chamber, we passed a budget that decreased our FTEs for the next two years. I know the parks department is optimistic they will be able to achieve a budget neutral model, however when I survey other aquatic centers nearby, none them have been successful in achieving this goal.

So what does that potentially mean for us? More prioritization. We have done more with less, and our new budget is just doing less. I am concerned what further programs or services will be potentially impacted in the future. With that being said, the aquatic center has a long history in West Linn. In 1998, the residents passed a bond to help locate and secure a site. Since then there have been surveys, models, and even an advisory vote in 2004. I am absolutely convinced every angle has been explored, every question asked, and no pebble left unturned. After years of hard work we sit here doing something no council has done before… looking at finally putting a bond to the voters…nearly 15 years after the 1998 bond . The proponents have a strong team of talented individuals who have kept working on this issue and show passion and dedication. My hope is that I will be able to recruit each of you for the less glamorous issues like pipes and roads.

I have said it before and I will say it again, our parks are our strongest asset. I am continually amazed how many individuals and families travel to West Linn to enjoy them. I have met families from Wilsonville, Tualatin, Portland, Happy Valley, Vancouver, and even Salem. Adding the aquatic center to our Parks has the potential to further enhance the draw to our community. Bringing people and families into our community gives our businesses increased revenue as they look for a place to eat or shop. Later, when they will be in the market for a home, West Linn will be on the top of their list. Let there be no doubt, strong parks enhance our community. This aquatic development has the potential to do just that and also align itself with another one of our council goals, economic development.

I would like to thank the hard and dedicated work from the aquatic task force as they have spent the better part of the last three years working diligently to finally have a motion before us tonight.




9 responses to “West Linn Aquatic Center”

  1. Rian Flad

    Never knew that the property in question was purchased to exist as an aquatic center of some kind. Agree that it seems to be a want instead of a need. I was against the pool only because of the location, but since the city already has purchased the lane for an eventual aquatic center, I’ll probably vote for it. Good commentary on your page Thomas.

  2. Rian Flad

    One more question Thomas, I saw the plans for a sketch of what the center is supposed to look like, more or less. Is the basketball court/gym still a part of the plan as it seems like that’s a good way to chip off some of the cost (and yes I realize that it’s pretty much too late to axe that part if necessary).

  3. West Linn Councilor Thomas Frank

    Thank you for the comments Rian. There was a complex set of ballot measures in 2010 that swapped the parker road site for some park land in Sunset Park so the school district can eventually expand Sunset Elementary School. The original intent was to build the new police station there and the aquatic center. The police station bond failed, and later we moved the location to Willamette. That leaves the land now available for anything, and I think it is the perfect spot for a aquatic center. If the measure is approved, concepts will be drawn and feasibility studies will be done on what exact amenities we can put in that facility. I am certain you will have a chance to express your thoughts on how it should be configured.

  4. Rian Flad

    Cool, so it’s not exactly set in stone on how it would look. Thanks for the response!

  5. While the locating seems to fit the purpose on paper, it would significantly degrade the beauty and use of the adjacent park area that is there today. This is one nicest and newest parks in West Linn. It is large enough for community activities, and when combined with the green space (targeted for the pool) it has hosted the Music in the Park and other great community activities for the last several years. Using the space for a large public structure, including all the parking space required, would change the entire area for the neighborhood. Worse, the traffic could increase substantially, and the main roads (like Salamo) are already feeling growing pains today. In addition to this, there are numerous community pools in the area (4-5 within a mile). For all these reasons, along with the fact that we are considering a service that will operate at an annual loss, I think this center would be a mistake for West Linn and I will vote against it.

    1. Hi Ryan I agree. I would hate to degrade the park. In fact, the facility itself will not significantly change the venue for Music in the Park. In fact, having the center integrated with the outdoor facilities will add a year round aspect to the area.

      As one of the former co-chairs of the Task Force, we took great care over three years to look at every option we could think of. While other pools do run deficits, we made sure that the dry side amenities (walking track, basketball court, cardio equipment and class rooms/meeting rooms) will help to bring in the revenue to get us to break even.

      As part of our research there was a traffic study conducted and it showed there is adequate amount of parking on the site to manage the neighborhood flow.

      The City has not ruled out working with an operating partner like the YMCA. Plus this is a center that our community will have a great deal of influence in programming. Even if we partner with an outside operator, it’s ours.

      This is more than just about a pool, it’s about a place where every age group will find a way to stay healthy and meet up on a more frequent basis. It will draw new residents, new consumers, help our current businesses and draw new business to West Linn. Not to mention provide jobs for our local youth and others.

      While I understand your concern, I hope you’ll take another look at what it will add to West Linn. I believe that this will set West Linn apart in a positive way for a long time to come.

  6. West Linn is a very nice rich and cultured town but its a bit boring and I have a 4 year old who would definitely benefit from a pool I totally agree with the making of a pool, it’s just the rich people who don’t want to deal with possible poor people or bad people in their rich neighborhoods

  7. Dino Shepherd

    “Our annual debt payment is $114,000. The aquatic and recreation center, as proposed, will operate at a $75,000 loss. If the bond is passed, the property will be paid off and the operational expenditure will be less then our current debt payments, thus resulting in net savings. ”

    Your quote above makes no sense and seems to mix capital and operating expenditures. Please clarify.

    The debt will not magically disappear if a bond measure is passed. The debt will still need to be paid.

    Operating expenses or losses refer to financial measures without regard to interest payments. So the (projected) operating loss is to be $75k PLUS however the initial acquisition money is repaid.

    With respect to operating revenue. I have seen the projects. They assume VERY optimistic conditions that are not likely to actually happen resulting in an even larger annual operating loss. This is what has happened time and again with these sort of projects.

    1. Hi Dino. I am simply looking at the top level view. The debt service would have been paid off and we would have eliminated the $114,000 payment. With that said, the bond measure didn’t pass the voters and this is no longer under consideration. We do currently own the property and still pay debt service. Do you have any opinions on what should be done with it?

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