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Peter’s Take: Cancel the Aquatics Center and Start Over

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotEnough is enough.

The Aquatics Center hasn’t been built yet, and it shouldn’t be built. The County Board should scrap its Olympian pretensions and its desire to build King’s Dominion North at the expense of Arlington taxpayers. The board should explain its decision as follows: “We have made a mistake, and we are going to fix it. We have new information, and we are going to act on it.”

The board immediately should direct the County Manager to halt all further work on the Aquatics Center. The board should notify the manager that the board no longer wishes to build this facility. The board should direct the manager to develop a new, cost-effective design for a sensible recreation center at Long Bridge Park (including a swimming pool).

The latest chapter in this problem-plagued project began when the Sun Gazette posted a story stating that “what had been an expected annual operating deficit of $1 million to $1.3 million has now ballooned to more than $4 million.” It’s not clear at the moment whether the ballooning deficit is due to lower than projected revenues or higher than projected expenses or a combination of both.

More than 80 percent of respondents to a recent ARLnow.com poll said that the Aquatics Center should not be built if this latest $4 million annual operating deficit projection turns out to be accurate. As I have written previously, this is just the latest in a string of warnings about the countless flaws in this project.

Commenting on the ARLnow.com Aquatics Center story that accompanied the latest poll, James Breiling nailed it:

“Office building occupancy has dived,” he writes. “The county is close to the set limit on bond borrowing. Taxpayers are rightly concerned about tax increases. So, funds are constrained. Accordingly, I suggest that THE question is the relative priority of the aquatics center via other things, in particular, providing facilities and staff needed to educate the surge in ACPS enrollment.”

That is, indeed, THE question.

THE answer: the Aquatics Center has far too low a priority and should be cancelled.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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