District to float bond for swimming pool

Voters will have the choice whether to approve a bond for a public pool facility on South Whidbey.

Come this November, voters will have the choice of whether or not to approve a bond for a public pool facility on South Whidbey.

During a meeting this week, the board of commissioners for the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District decided to move ahead with a bond measure for the proposed South Whidbey Aquatic Wellness Center.

How much that bond will be, however, will depend on the amount of money that the parks and rec district is able to raise for the project between now and November. State Rep. Dave Paul and Rep. Clyde Shavers are co-sponsoring the project, which has a request for $1.4 million, in this year’s state capital budget.

A nonprofit organization, South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation, has raised nearly $100,000 from private donors. In addition, the regional branch of USA Swimming, a group that fosters youth participation in the sport, contributed $20,000.

“That’s our goal, is we’ll be continuing to raise money from these other sources and that will reduce the amount that is actually issued,” South Whidbey Parks and Rec Commissioner Matt Simms said in an interview with The Record.

The parks and rec commissioners decided that the maximum bond amount they would issue would be $27 million to be collected over a 25-year period. The rate for that amount is an increase of 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is about $7 a month for someone who owns a home that is valued at $500,000. But if a significant amount of funds are raised soon for the project, that would lower the bond and, as a result, the rate.

A public pool on the South End has long been anticipated. In 2008, a bond for a much larger recreational facility went out to the voters but was soundly rejected. In comparison, this project focuses on swimming rather than other recreational opportunities. Designs have not yet been finalized, but Simms said the building will be around 25,000 square feet, which is half the size of what was proposed in 2008. It will be located at the South Whidbey Community Park entrance on Maxwelton Road, close to schools and a transit line.

Simms pointed to a recent community survey about the project, which garnered 4,000 responses. More than 70% of respondents indicated that the pool was a high priority, and many taking the survey included supportive comments about the project.

“It had just become clear to us that the community wants us to act, and act now,” Simms said.

Though the commissioners wondered if they should delay putting the bond on the ballot this year, they ultimately decided to listen to the community.

“If the bond is successful, people will be swimming in it in the summer of 2025,” Simms said, adding that construction is slated to begin in 2024 if all goes well.

Over the next few months, the parks and rec district will hold a series of informational sessions about the project and the bond.