The Bonney Lake City Council looks to be taking its first steps in planning out how to build a city pool.
On Jan. 23, Plateau residents attended the regular council meeting to watch Emily Terrell, a city planner and a mother of a Spartan swimmer, present to the council why having a pool is important for student athletes and Bonney Lake residents, as well as how she thinks the city can fund the pool’s construction and operation.
The council met again Feb. 6 and discussed how to move forward on planning how to build a pool.
Mayor Neil Johnson pointed out that the pool is only a small part of the overall Midtown Park plan the city has been working on.
Midtown Park is planned to be built in the city’s portion of the WSU forest.
“Realistically, for the city of Bonney lake, it’s too heavy a lift to have an aquatics center and Midtown Park all on the city,” Johnson said. “My thinking is, you have an active group, the aquatics group, that really wants to be engaged, so I would recommend taking the Midtown Park plan and splitting it in two.”
The city’s Parks Commission would take care of planning Midtown Park, while a new pool commission would be formed by members of Terrell’s group to plan the aquatics center.
Johnson also suggested the Parks Commission could go out for a bond measure to fund the construction of the park while the pool commission would try to form a pool district and collect revenue for their project’s construction.
“If you work on them all at the same time, I don’t think anything really will get done,” Johnson continued. “That’s my gut feel. If we do aquatics first, that’s great, but that puts something else off on the back burner.”
As a big proponent of Midtown Park, Councilman Tom Watson seemed on board with the idea, but added the two commissions should come together regularly to update each other on their progress, “so we can keep moving together as a group… I’m afraid we’re all going to go on little tangents, and four years from now,” we’ll end up where we are today.
Councilman Justin Evans said if the two commissions worked independently, then it’s more likely at least one project will move forward if another is stalled for any reason.
Bonney Lake’s Chief Financial Officer Cherie Gibson said it would be better for Bonney Lake to go to the voters with a metropolitan parks district ballot measure that included a pool. This way, revenue from the district can fund the park and the pool, and not just one.
Gibson worked with the city of Normandy Park when voters approved a metropolitan parks district half a decade ago. The city of Des Moines also passed a metropolitan parks district, but included language for funding a pool, while Normandy Park’s metropolitan parks district did not.
Councilman Dan Swatman was quick to react to this suggestion.
“You left out the part about getting shot for trying to form an MPD,” he said, recalling the City Council attempted to form a metropolitan parks district in 2013.
The measure failed with nearly 80 percent of voters rejecting it.
Councilman Randy McKibbon suggested doing some more research to see if Bonney Lake residents — and even residents of other nearby cities who could potentially be inside this district’s borders — would want to support a parks district measure.
“I know we all have a sour taste in our mouth about that,” he added, referring to the city’s failed 2013 measure.
Watson said Terrell, who is the point person for a group of close to a thousand Sumner-Bonney Lake School District families, alums, and other residents who want a Bonney Lake city pool, could help energize people at the grassroots level.
“Then you might get more people buy in for [an MPD] sometime next year,” Watson said. “But I would hate to see us drag our feet too long.”
In the end, Johnson said he’d reach out to Terrell for her thoughts and to organize a meeting with pool and park advocates to plan their next move.
The city is looking at constructing a pool because the Sumner High School pool is planned to be closed and demolished by the end of the 2018-2019 swim season.
The Sumner-Bonney Lake School Board voted last March to donate $6.6 million to Bonney Lake for the pool.