Bell, councilmen say $9M water park could be built through funds from recreation levy

10/31/2012
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
CTY-STATION12p-Mike-Bell

The Blade/Andy Morrison

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.

Con­tact Va­nessa McCray at: vmc­cray@the­blade.com or 419-724-6065.