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The Right Note: Another Pool Proposal Emerges

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

This week County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a revised aquatics center plan for Long Bridge Park during a County Board work session.

The aquatics center at Long Bridge had been shelved when the costs continued to balloon. Former County Manager Donnellan ultimately announced they simply could not find a bid to build the pool complex within the allotted budget.

The County it seems was unwilling to go back to the taxpayers again to approve additional bonds for the project which was threatening to top $80 million. Bonds dating back to 2004 have been approved by voters and nearly $17 million have already sold but are yet unused on the project. $30.5 million of bonds have been approved, but not sold.

The new $65 million (approximate) plan seeks to reduce the size of the facility by a little more than one-third and is estimated to save 17% from the old estimate. However, these are only county staff estimates as there has been no final price tag from a construction firm.

Of course, it was not just the construction costs causing heartburn. County estimates pegged the project with an ongoing annual operating deficit of more than $4 million before it was halted. The staff says the new plan will only result in an operating deficit of $1 million.

As the aquatics center discussion moves forward, ongoing operating costs will remain an important issue. How much of a subsidy should we provide to Arlington residents? And will people from surrounding communities who use the facility be required to pay more?

In watching the County Board work session presentation on the new project, two other claims stood out. First, it was stated that the new facility would be designed and built to meet identified community needs. Second, that the previous design was biased toward better architecture and not better energy efficiency. This time around, energy efficiency will be given a higher priority.

It makes one wonder, why was it not done this way the first time?

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