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South Whidbey residents see a new pool in the future

LANGLEY — South Whidbey residents are ready to dive into the pool.

Overwhelming support for an aquatic center was the consensus of 42 South Enders at a meeting Thursday hosted by the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District.

Before the parks district can move forward on their proposed $16 million recreation center on Maxwelton Road, they wanted to find out precisely what people think is important.

The district plans to go before voters sometime in 2009, to ask for a levy increase to pay for the center.

Principal architect Geoff Anderson from O.R.B. Architects divided the crowd into groups, gave each $10 million “play money” to spend and asked them to prioritize their preferences for a community, recreation and aquatic center to be built on park property.

Actually, they only had $5.5 million after deductions for necessary elements like a lobby, office, changing rooms and mechanicals were accounted for.

Island Athletic Club owner Steve Shapiro sounded a cautionary note.

“Whatever they say it will cost, it will cost more,” he said. “Fuel, cement and steel prices are going up. I’m not sure taxpayers are going to pay $16 million for this. And going into competition with existing businesses isn’t realistic.”

Anderson replied that rising costs are factored into the

financial equation along with a five-year projection for maintenance and operations.

Though most agreed that meeting rooms and facilities for senior services and park programs were important, most wanted leisure and lap pools — including water slides, hot tubs and saunas — that would generate income while meeting the needs of the community.

Island County Senior Services director Farrell Fleming noted that his constituents will use the center when no one else can, during the day.

O.R.B. Architects will gather the data, including updated island demographics, and hold another public meeting on July 17 to reveal the results and cost estimates for the project.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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