Rifle Community and Recreation Center issues discussed
Citizen Telegram Editor
The proposed Rifle Community and Recreation Center, and an accompanying 0.74 percent city sales tax hike on the Sept. 10 municipal election ballot, drew most of the attention at a Wednesday, May 8, City Council workshop with the parks and recreation advisory board.
A citizens group has asked the city to place the tax hike and the issuance of a 30-year, $21 million bond issue to fund construction on the ballot. The center would be built where the Art Dague swimming pool and tennis courts are at Metro Park.
City Council is scheduled to consider placing the issue before voters at its June 5 meeting.
An opposition group, “Rifle No More TAXES,” has formed to urge voters to deny the measure. (See guest column on page 8.)
City Manager John Hier, who retired on Friday, May 10, said if the sales tax hike passes, the city would likely form a design team and then seek bids for the project.
Recreation Director Aleks Briedis, who will also step down from his position later this month, recommended the city use a design/build approach instead of separate design and construction companies.
Parks and recreation board member Ryan Mackley said the people at the Fruita recreation center, which opened a few years ago to large crowds, also recommended a design/build approach.
“It’s a way to keep costs down and within your budget,” Mackley said.
City Councilman and local architect Rich Carter, who has done the preliminary design work on the Rifle center, agreed.
“There’s nothing worse than opening a bid and having no idea what you might get,” he said. “With the design/build approach, you know what to expect, because you’re locked in to your budget.”
Parks and recreation member Ed Weiss said the bigger issue will likely be how to pay the annual operations and maintenance costs for the center.
“We thought you might be able to use some of the one cent sales tax money [a voter-approved tax hike that is designed for parks and recreation use], but I was humbled at how low the revenues are expected to be for that fund,” Weiss said. “So I’m not sure where you are going to go. This center will operate at a deficit, and you only have the general fund, membership and fees. So even if it does get built, you have real challenges.”
Briedis said the center will likely have an annual operating deficit of around $175,000.
Mayor Jay Miller noted that even with the voter-approved 3/4 cent sales tax hike to help with the costs of the new $25 million water treatment plant, sales tax revenues are lagging so far this year.
Briedis added that if that trend continues and if the rec center tax hike passes, “you’re going to have the perfect storm and will have to cut recreation services and programs.”
Possible savings might be found if the city can pay off its remaining debt on the parks maintenance building at Deerfield Park earlier than planned, he noted.
If the measure is defeated at the election, Briedis said the city has enough money in the parks and recreation budget to keep the Rifle Fitness Center open through July of next year. It would be up to City Council to decide what happens after that, he added.
If the tax hike is approved, Briedis said the project would soon be put out for bids using the design/build approach, with work potentially starting in July of this year. Construction would likely take two years, so there is a potential for the loss of up to one swimming season, he noted.
The City Council and parks and recreation board also discussed:
• How to handle requests for free swimming pool passes to be included in silent auctions and similar events. Due to finances, such requests should be denied, City Council told the board.
• Unsolicited parks and recreation project requests from citizens and groups. City Council told the board to inform those who make such requests of the city’s annual budget process, when parks and recreation projects are decided.
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