Town hall meeting focused on aquatic center funding

CLARKSTON, WA - The Asotin County Commissioners held their third town hall meeting Thursday night, focusing on the future of the aquatic center.

After researching different funding ideas over the past couple months, Commissioner Brian Shinn presented an idea to create a Public Facilities District, which would do two things; transfer ownership of the Asotin County Family Aquatic Center to the district and implement a .02 sales tax.

"Understand that the voters would have to approve this, both the creation of a public facilities district and the approval of a local option sales tax," said Shinn.

Shinn said the creation of the district is the only way to enact a tax on the citizens to fund the center. Early projections suggest the county would make $200,000 to $300,000 off of the tax. He said the key thing here, is that no one could opt-in on the tax, as Clarkston did previously. Mayor Kathleen Warren said they probably won't be able to assist the county in the coming years with the aquatic center.

"Everything was handled rather badly on both sides," said Warren. "We were just as guilty as anybody else as to all this confusion and everything. But the simple fact of the matter is, this year and I'm afraid next year, revenues are down for us."

The audience offered words of encouragement to the commissioners, as well as words of concern. Former Asotin County Assessor Dave Abbott, believes the local sales tax would merely be a band-aid to the center's financial problems.

"It sounds to me like we need a larger revenue source than that if we're looking for the creation of an entity that would actually bring in sufficient revenues to cover the cost of operating the aquatic center," said Abbott.

Resident Val Mundell said reaching out to Lewiston to create some sort of joint partnership in regard to funding seems more economically beneficial.

"We're too small," said Mundell. "This is a luxury that this small community cannot afford."

State Law requires a financial feasibility study by the Department of Commerce, to determine whether the district and funding of it would
actually work.

Shinn said the feasibility student would cost somewhere between $8,000 to $12,000.