Last week, Kuna city officials held a town meeting presenting the results from a study by a private survey company that surveyed 541 Kuna residents about a recreation center and possible community pool.
There has been talk of a community pool in Kuna for years. Four years ago a $5 million bond measure on the ballot failed 67% to 32% asking residents to approve a measure to build a community pool, purchase a city hall and acquire land for baseball and soccer fields.
The former editor of Kuna Melba News, Scott McIntosh, wrote in his blog after the defeat, “The city has avoided what promised to be a costly and messy mistake that would have caused no end of headaches and unexpected costs.”
“What I heard the loudest during the campaign to get the bond measure passed was an overwhelming agreement that city residents want a municipal pool built,” he later wrote. He estimated two-thirds of the population would favor a community pool if they were allowed to vote on just that.
The dream in city hall for a community pool is still strong. Mayor Greg Nelson has been talking about a combined youth recreational facility and pool for the last several years and it was the subject of debate during the last city council election.
To move towards that goal, last year the Kuna City Council authorized a feasibility study to survey residents what kind of facility they would like to see. The survey (with a 4 percent margin of error) focused on what features people wanted to be included in the design of a new indoor community center or aquatic center.
Nearly 40 percent chose swimming center as their number one request with weight room, indoor running/walking track, aerobics space, playground for kids and gymnasium filling out the top six. For the pool area, an area for swim lessons followed by lap lanes were the top contenders but overall, residents liked the idea of a lazy river with slowly moving water and a hot tub when asked for second through fourth choices. Nearly 70 percent of residents would use the facility for exercise and year round recreation activities.
But how would the city pay for it? Discussion of the creation of a recreational tax district that would reach across the Canyon County line to the west, Meridian to the north, just past Cloverdale Road to the east and to the Snake River to the south were proposed. The survey asked what residents were willing to pay. A third said that $75-$99 in additional property taxes would be about right but 30 percent said they wouldn’t pay anything. The preferred funding source was split among residents with 30 percent saying they would support a combination of city taxes & recreation district taxes to build and operate the center. Twenty-eight percent said they wouldn’t support increases in taxes to build it. Twenty-nine percent weren’t sure.
Despite being evenly split between paying for it and not, 47 percent of people would vote in favor of creating a recreation district. Nineteen percent would vote against it. Seventeen percent might vote in favor of it with a matching number on the fence.
Fifty-seven percent said that they would prefer an annual pass to pay for the use while 13 percent favored an annual adult pass with another 13 percent wanting to pay per visit.
Interestingly, when asked if a community pool was a very high, high, medium or low priority it was evenly split four ways (20%, 28%, 24%, 22% respectively.)
The study determined that there is support in the community for an annual tax of $75-$99 per year and that this amount would fund a facility costs of approximately $15 million with an annual subsidy of $300,000.
The next steps are to develop a program to match the budget, complete a site plan and financing plan and then take the project to the voters for the formation of a recreational district.
Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson said that the earliest that residents could see a ballot measure would be May of 2015 due to petition deadlines and scheduling with the Ada County Elections Office.