Since last July, Camas residents have not stopped discussing the $78 million bond levy on the ballot for the November election.
The bond would fund a new aquatics center, the renovation of three existing sports fields, and other roadside construction projects. Constructing an aquatics center in Camas has been in discussion for three decades, but has never been taken to the next level.
“I was extremely proud of our council members for having the wherewithal to not discuss or study it any further, but put it on the ballot and see what our citizens think,” said city administrator Pete Capell.
If the bond is passed this November, it would fund the construction of a three level, 78,000- square-foot aquatics center equipped with a competitive swimming pool, a lap pool, a two-court gymnasium, and community rooms. In addition to the aquatics center, the bond will provide synthetic turf, lights, and other improvements to Forest Home Park, Prune Hill Sports Park, and Dorothy Fox Park.
“Fields are a premium,” said CSD superintendent Jeff Snell. “People like to have… spaces to practice.”
As of right now, the preferred location for the aquatics center is the south side of NE Lake Road across from Heritage Park.
“We’re not locked into that site. There’s been a lot of concerns raised about the location. Part of it is traffic,” Capell said.
By no means is this area set in stone, but the city is confident that this location would be a great place to host the center.
A roundabout will be constructed at NE Everett Street and NE Lake Road during the spring of 2020, which is not a part of the bond. The hope is that the roundabout will relieve the traffic problem in this area, which will make it a more convenient place for the aquatics center.
The part that worries most Camas citizens is the price tag. If the bond is approved by voters, then residents will pay an additional $1.04 per $1,000 in assessed property value starting in 2021. For the median assessed property value in Camas, this equates to residents paying approximately $474 extra per year for 20 years. However, the City claims that the timing of the bond actually eases the overall financial impact of taxpayers.
“In 2021, the library comes off, as well as one of the school levies, which combine to $1.44,” Capell said. “$1.44 comes off, and we’re adding $1.04, so it would be a reduction of 40 cents.”
The City envisions the facility would provide opportunities for those in all walks of life, as well as make sure all kids have the opportunity to compete.
“We can have basketball, volleyball, and pickleball, for all ages to enjoy,” said Capell.
Teaching children how to swim is also high on the city’s priority list.
“The only body of water around here is Lacamas Lake. I feel like it’s a safety hazard and we should be able to offer a place where kids can swim, provided by the city,” said CHS swimmer Jack Harris.
Snell and Capell have also discussed offering free swim lessons to elementary schoolers as a part of school curriculum.
This bond levy will be voted on by Camas citizens on November 5, 2019. The voters are in complete control of the decision at this point.
“Since it’s a voted debt, we’ve got to get 60 percent plus one to pass it. That’s a high, high bar,” said Capell.