Council supports rec district plan

MONMOUTH - A resolution supporting the creation of a special district designed to raise funds to build a new community recreation facility for Monmouth and Independence has been approved by the City C



MONMOUTH - A resolution supporting the creation of a special district designed to raise funds to build a new community recreation facility for Monmouth and Independence has been approved by the City Council.

The proposal, brought forth by a contingent of local residents, has been mulled by leaders in both towns during the past two years.

While the recreation district wouldn't create a new permanent tax rate, proponents said it would allow its eventual board members to place a construction bond before voters - possibly this fall.

The council voted unanimously at its April 1 meeting in favor of the concept. Polk County Commissioners will flesh out parameters for, and schedule a public hearing regarding, the formation of the district in the coming months.

Councilors from the latter had wrestled with confusion about the district's purpose, its financial ramifications and the makeup of its leadership since first proposed by individual members of the Monmouth-Independence YMCA, though not as an official venture of the organization.

The group seeks to build a 51,000-square-foot recreation complex with a pool, basketball court and other amenities on a parcel off the S-curves along Monmouth Street. A bond to pay for the project would range from $5 million to $7 million.

"I think it's a good project," said Councilor Chris Larsen, adding that his concern is that the group does its due diligence.

"There are needs in the community for a new high school, an elementary school, a sewer system and our dilapidated City Hall," he said.

The county turned down an initial request for conceptual approval last July, asking proponents to clarify criteria about the district.

Greg Ellis, part of the YMCA contingent, said the district's board would have five elected members serving four-year terms, with two representatives each from Monmouth and Independence and an at-large position.

The district would also contract with an organization such as the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club as a building tenant.

Ellis said that the YMCA, given its roots in Monmouth and Independence, would be "a logical choice."

An overarching concern of councilors had been liability of the cities for facility operating deficits. Many changed their minds after learning that the operator of the center would be responsible for any and all cost overruns.

A rough business plan by proponents - modeled after one used by the Sherwood YMCA - shows the center turning a small profit by assuming 5,400 members in the districts' service area.

Councilor Steve Milligan asked whether the Christian philosophical component of the organization could result in any potential community members being excluded from membership if the YMCA is selected as the facility's tenant,.

"There are people with those concerns, whether those concerns are justified or not," he said.

Tim Barry, Monmouth-Independence YMCA director, said that the local chapter would serve any and everybody. "Anyone with doubts can look it up, you'll see that we don't discriminate."

The county required resolutions of support from Independence and Monmouth before drafting a final order - which the cities will vote on when completed.

"I'm enthusiastically in favor of a facility," Mayor John Oberst said. "I'm still troubled by the notion of a district being formed to build a building that's going to be run by a private nonprofit ... but I don't know how else to get there."



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