The History and Proposal of Alva City Pool Bond Measure
July 7, 2019
I have heard a lot of people say that whether the GO bond passes or not the pool will be open next year. While I will not definitively tell you it will not open if the bond measure fails, I do want to tell you that the chances are quite high.
The Department of Health has set some pretty stringent requirements as to what has to be repaired in order for the pool to be opened. This process began in August of last year during a routine inspection. In order to keep this service available to the citizens, council and city staff began formulating and discussing what must be done to preserve the pool.
Opening Allowed This Year Only:
The first step was to get the pool open for this year. This involved numerous discussions with the Department of Health, the formulation of a rehabilitation plan and then the submission of this plan. As part of this plan several deficiencies were slated for immediate repair including the chemical system and plumbing the drainage system in to the city sewer system. These were relatively low cost items that could be completed quickly. The proposal was formed and sent off for approval.
We waited for some time for a response back saying if the plan would be accepted. During this time the repairs that could be made were being made and communication was maintained with the Department of Health. Finally, after much waiting, the proposal was approved. This meant that the repairs that we had made thus far would allow us to open the pool this year but would not be sufficient to keep the pool open beyond this one year extension without further renovation.
Phase Two Plans:
This led to Phase 2. Some of you may recall the survey about the pool that the city published. This was part of the planning. During this portion we were discussing if the pool should be a priority or not and at what cost. During the budget hearing we looked at priorities and requests and asked which ones could be put off and how much money did that leave us? It was woefully short of the engineer estimates we had received at that time. We asked what grants were available; we discussed the prospect of a historical site and what that would mean. I personally opposed a sales tax increase or additional utility rate increase. I opposed the city taking any form of debt on this project initially.
Why a GO Bond?
This is when the idea of a general obligation (GO) bond was really brought up. While this is a debt incurred by the city and backed by ad valorem tax (think of the tax as the collateral to the loan) it is different than a lot of other types of tax/debt. First, it has a natural sunset provision by law and second it is singularly purposed. These two facts were very important to me. The next factor that ultimately led to my decision in accepting this measure was the fact that the citizens would get to vote on this form of debt and not just the council.
So, to clarify why I approved of this funding measure: 1) I feel like we lacked other feasible alternatives, 2) it has a definitive end date in the language of the adoption and state statutes, 3) it ultimately gives the people the right to vote. This is why I ultimately voted yes to present this measure as an option to our citizens.
What Happens if the Bond Vote Fails?
That is where we are today. We are facing a vote on if we are willing to utilize this as a funding measure for our pool or not. Again, I will not tell you that there will be no pool next year if the measure fails, but the options are bleak if it does and a lot of other things would have to go just right for it to happen.
This isn’t intended as fear mongering. If the vote is no I will keep trying to find ways to make a pool happen by next year and I think we all will. But the cold, hard reality is that it likely means there is no pool next year.
Still Looking at Grants:
Now, what is the City continuing to do? A lot of people have asked about grant funding. This is viable but time constraints do not allow us to wait out grant application and approval processes before requesting the bond. If we could we would finalize grant proposals before we moved to a GO bond but if we did so there would not be enough time to get the pool open if the grants failed.
This doesn’t mean that grants are not being written. There is one in the works now that has matched over $800,000 for the City of Guthrie. This grant does require matching city funds however (and is why Guthrie was ultimately limited to the $800,000 limit). So for this grant to even happen there would need to be additional revenues to cover it. There are also several other grants that are being worked on to cover additional portions. Again, most grants require matching funds (so if the grant pays $100,000, the city must also pay $100,000 towards the project). There have also been several people who have donated, offered to donate, or inquired about donating towards the project, which could also be additional sources of funding.
This is what led to my questions about, “What happens if the project comes in under budget [or below the requested $2.5 million]?” It is my opinion that grant and matching funds be used for the current proposal first (this could potentially mean we only need a portion of the $2.5 million requested) with the remainder being paid back to the bond proposal lessening the tax burden. This is a viable option and the council was informed that the bond does allow early buyback. I have made very clear that my support of this measure is contingent on any additional funding being used for bond buybacks. I have received a verbal pledge from the mayor and have asked that we do anything legal and binding to this effect. I unfortunately do not believe we can do anything legally binding to this effect, but I encourage everyone to request their council member make this pledge.
Even with the grants, we have to have the matching funds from somewhere. There is only a small portion of the budget that we feel we could free up for this project. So, even if we got every grant, we would still need additional revenues. The goal of the grants would be to reduce the overall tax burden of the bond, not eliminate it.