by Lizzie Norgard
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
On Nov. 7, Walla Walla voters will decide if they will pay to build a new aquatic center. Complete with water slides, a wave pool, and a wading pool for small children, the aquatic center would especially benefit youth and families during the hot Walla Walla summers.
The bond proposal for the new aquatic center asks voters in the Borleske district to pay $7.42 million for the project over the course of 25 years. Funding would come from local property taxes, amounting to $23 per year per $100,000 of the resident’s property value. If the proposal is passed the aquatic center will be built on the site of the former Memorial Pool, next to Borleske Stadium.
The current proposal is a modification of a previous aquatic center proposal, which failed on the ballot three years ago. The prior proposal for a $9 million aquatic center would have been built on a different site and been funded partially by sales taxes from people throughout the county.
Though the 2003 proposal failed and there are rumors of debate over the new one, support for the aquatic center in the Whitman community appears strong.
Rebecca Sickels, who runs the Whitman mentor program and teaches yoga at the Juvenile Detention Center, sees the benefit of the aquatic center for at-risk youth in particular. “I look at our at-risk youth and I wonder what other options in this town they have other than hanging out at Coffee Perk? A lot of sports or other programs are too expensive. Over 60 percent of our public school children are living at or below the poverty line. Where can they spend time doing something healthy and productive and not participate in unhealthy risky behaviors? A reasonably priced public pool,” Sickels said.
Chemistry professor Ruth Russo said that the benefit of a public pool for the entire community is well worth the cost to taxpayers. “The cost per hundred thousand dollars is a very good value for the money, compared with other non-essentials people spend money on: $4 drinks at Starbuck’s; cable TV; gas-guzzling cars; or an evening movie at the theater,” Russo said.
Film professor Robert Sickels also supports the proposal. “For a town that touts itself as being a great place to raise kids, it seems insane to not have a public pool. As a dad with a little girl who I regularly haul to Milton-Freewater, I’d really like to see it pass this time,” he said.