News

What comes next in pool, golf process?

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

The process of transferring ownership of the local swimming pool and golf course can now begin, following an overwhelming public show of support.

Voters went to the polls Feb. 4 and agreed to raise their property taxes to save the pool. Results are still unofficial, and King County has yet to finish counting absentee ballots, but it appears support for the pool measure will top the 86 percent mark. Early results showed 2,022 "yes" votes, while only 320 voted against the measure, officially noted on the ballot as Proposition 1.

City officials were not only thrilled with the results, but were surprised at the turnout. Thirty-six percent of the city's 6,505 registered voters cast a ballot, quite a showing for a Tuesday in which only one measure was to be decided.

Ownership of the pool and Enumclaw Golf Course will transfer April 1 from King County to the city, and legal representatives from both entities will be working to draft the necessary paperwork, according to Mark Bauer, Enumclaw city administrator. Also during the next couple of months, the city's Parks and Recreation Department will make the personnel steps needed to maintain the pool and take care of finances.

The goal, Bauer said, is "to make as seamless a transition as possible." Visitors to either facility should notice no difference in operation between March 31 and April 1, he added.

A big change will come sometime after the first of April, when the city addresses the fee paid by pool users. The city has said all along it will expect non-city residents to pay more than those living in Enumclaw. But that doesn't necessarily mean another fee hike, Bauer said; instead, the city will likely drop the current admission fee, but for city residents only.

The golf course is being managed under terms of a contract with King County, an agreement that will shift to the city. No changes should be expected until the current lease agreement expires in April 2004, according to information provided by the city.

The public was asked to support the pool only because attorneys found a loophole which allowed King County to get around its promise to operate the Forward Thrust pool until 2013. Due to budget constraints, the county decided to "mothball" the Enumclaw pool, among others, shutting the doors but keeping pumps running and the ventilation system running.

If the public wanted to use the pool, the county said, another entity would have to step forward. In Enumclaw, that was the city. King County convinced the city to take ownership of the pool by sweetening the pot with the local golf course, a money-making venture.

The city will use the bulk of the golf course revenues to offset the cost of pool operations, but that's not enough. The difference, about 10,000 per year, will be generated through the property tax increase approved Feb. 4.

The increase approved by voters amount to 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That amounts to an annual increase in property taxes of $32 for the owner of property valued at $200,000, or $40 yearly for the owner of a $250,000 property. The higher tax rate will be in place effective Jan. 1, 2004.

To pay for pool operations the rest of this year, the Enumclaw City Council decided to halt payments into its vehicle replacement fund. Money is held in that account to pay for replacement vehicles and equipment for city departments.

If Enumclaw voters had rejected the Feb. 4 ballot measure, King County would have locked the pool doors April 1.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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