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Independence Supports Rec District

INDEPENDENCE -- The Independence City Council passed at its Jan. 9 meeting a resolution that supports the creation of a special recreation district.

INDEPENDENCE -- The Independence City Council passed at its Jan. 9 meeting a resolution that supports the creation of a special recreation district.

Its boundaries would overlap Central School District in Monmouth and Independence and be governed by an elected board.

The concept was first proposed last summer by members of the Monmouth-Independence YMCA, as a way to potentially fund construction of a community recreation complex.

The district would have the governmental authority to place a bond before voters, but wouldn't establish a new permanent tax base, said Independence City Manager Greg Ellis, who is also a YMCA board member.

"We're not interested in adding another layer of taxes," Ellis said.

The MI YMCA has been trying for several years to build a facility on a donated 3.5 acre parcel of land just east of the S-curve on Highway 51. A current project plan calls for a 51,000 square-foot building housing a swimming pool, basketball court and other amenities. Cost is estimated at $6.7 million.

A consulting study commissioned by the YMCA showed that a bond would be the most feasible funding method for such a project, which prompted efforts to create a district that would own the building and contract the YMCA to manage and operate it.

Polk County Commissioners would have to approve the district. Ellis said there would have to be unanimous support from all agencies in Monmouth and Independence for that to happen.

Officials at Central and Western Oregon University have already given endorsements.

The idea was seemingly abandoned last summer, after Monmouth officials expressed concern that it could inadvertently hinder the city's chances of getting approval for any of its own future bond measures.

"The members said they were going to drop the subject in the respective cities," Ellis said. But with the election over and nothing on the ballot for Monmouth or Independence in the foreseeable future, "we thought now would be a good time to bring it back up again," he added.

Monmouth will consider adopting a similar resolution of support at its Feb. 6 council meeting.

Pending approval there, the YMCA plans to survey residents about support for, and the amount of, a bond for the project. YMCA officials would approach county commissioners in March and then develop a ballot measure for the fall election in July.

Ellis noted that the district initiative is not an official action of the M-I YMCA board, but is being pursued individually by some of its members.

Besides Ellis, Independence Mayor John McArdle and Monmouth City Councilor Rob Kerr are YMCA board members.

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