Mayor Mike Bell and two council members pitched plans Tuesday for up to $9 million in new aquatic projects to be funded through a recreation levy that goes before voters next week.
Mr. Bell, joined by councilmen Steven Steel and Lindsay Webb, urged voters to support Issue 5, a 10-year, 1-mill levy request that would generate about $3 million annually to fund the park system, and, they said, build two water recreation sites.
Supporters trumpet the proposed levy as a way to create a dedicated funding source for Toledo’s hard-hit recreation budget and build facilities to serve residents of all ages. But others question the timing while the city works to meet other needs.
“This particular issue is so important, just from the standpoint of we will be able to focus on our kids and be able to also focus on our adults,” said Mr. Bell, during a press conference at One Government Center.
City officials said locations have not been chosen for the two proposed facilities. A water park with slides and waterfall features could be built in a central spot for about $6 million, said city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei. A $2 million to $3 million pool for seniors to do water aerobics or swim laps in a “calmer environment” could be placed at or near a senior center, she said. The projects are in line with community feedback and master plan work, she said.
Revenue bonds, repaid through the proposed recreation levy, would fund the projects, Ms. Sorgenfrei said. The city wouldn’t begin site plans or designs “until we know we have a secured revenue source,” she said.
Ms. Webb said the levy also would allow the city to “consistently fund recreational opportunities” and enhance existing infrastructure.
Ms. Sorgenfrei said the city would demolish some city pools in disrepair and eventually convert those sites to other uses. The city would evaluate which neighborhood pools would remain open in addition to the proposed water park.
The recreation levy comes before voters during a “very challenging financial time,” said Councilman George Sarantou.
He and councilmen Tom Waniewski and Rob Ludeman voted against putting the request on the ballot.
“In my personal opinion, I believe we need to direct as many dollars as we can toward public safety,” Mr. Sarantou said.
He called the timing of the project announcements a “marketing ploy” to give voters a reason to support the levy and said the funding focus should be on police, fire, streets, and schools.
“Taxpayers feel they are paying enough in property taxes,” he said.
Mr. Waniewski said the levy hasn’t been approved, and yet “we are already spending money we don’t have” without proper planning.
“It further underscores the political willy-nilly spending that is government,” he said.
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