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Does Arlington Need A $72 Million Swimming Pool?

Let’s start the final argument on the Parks & Recreation bond referenda that will be on the Tuesday, November 6 ballot by looking at just what ACTA opposes. We've previously growled about the aquatic center on June 6, October 4, and October 12, 2012. The following schematic is from the county’s Long Bridge Park webpage.

A letter to the editor of the Arlington Sun Gazette in the October 25 edition (accessible online here) argued the aquatics center was both affordable and needed. The writer also claimed the opposition to this latest Arlington County Board vanity project was being “misled by a small, vocal minority, led basically by two individuals.” One of those two individuals, Wayne Kubicki, recently responded with the following letter outlining his opposition to the $72 million swimming Taj Majal:

“A letter posted on The Sun Gazette website on October 23 suggested that opposition to the Parks & Recreation bond on next Tuesday's ballot had limited opposition -- basically me and the editor of this newspaper.

“Fact is, that is just not true.

“The Revenues & Expenditures Committee of the Civic Federation, which I chair, voted unanimously to oppose the Parks bond. The Federation as whole voted overwhelmingly to support the other three bonds on the ballot (Schools/Transportation/Infrastructure) - but the Federation vote to support the Parks bond only carried by a small four vote margin.

“The Arlington Taxpayers Association, the Arlington Green Party and the Arlington Republican Party have also opposed the Parks bond. Many attendees at the recent Committee of 100 program on the aquatics center also expressed a high degree of skepticism.

“The reasoning behind the opposition?  Both cost and priority of County spending.

“The $72 million aquatics center uses the vast majority of the Parks bond funding. The County projects the annual impact on our annual operating budget (including debt service and tax-supported annual operating cost deficits for the facility) at as high as $7 million per year.

“In the context of the overall budget, this is $7 million per year we don't appear to have.

“Just within the last week, County staff has projected a $50 million combined County/Schools deficit for fiscal year 2014. County Manager Donnellan has asked her department heads to identify budget cuts for next year, and County Board Chairman Hynes has suggested a raise in the car tax rate.

“We already have other pressing budget needs on the immediate horizon -- the increasing enrollments on our Schools, the year-around homeless shelter and new operating subsidies for the new Arlington Mill Community Center and Metro's Silver Line are just four of the examples.

“Couple these real needs with an increasing office space vacancy and the certain impacts on Arlington from a realignment of the federal budget, it is little wonder that County Manager Donnellan herself used the phrase "the rabbit is dead" when summing up her view of future County revenue growth.

“Against this overall background of stagnating revenue, budget cuts and other new spending which most Arlingtonians would classify as a "true need", why should we be voting to build a $72M luxury aquatics center with an annual cost of up to $7 million, that a limited number of Arlingtonians will ever use?

“All of this is why I'll be voting YES on the bond questions for Schools, Transportation & Infrastructure -- but voting NO on the Parks bond.  I urge Sun Gazette readers to do the same.”

/s/ Wayne Kubicki

If you’re still undecided whether or not to support the Parks & Recreation bond referenda, the Arlington Mercury posted a summary of the Committee of 100 debate between Mr. Kubicki and County Board member Jay Fisette over the merits of the aquatics center. In addition, they provided links to the video of Mr. Kubicki’s presentation and the video of Mr. Fisette’s presentation. They’re about 10 minutes long, each.

And finally, if you're watching Mr. Kubicki's C100 presentation, at about the 3:45 minute mark, he mentions a six-year annual budget forecast that hasn't been done. After the Committee of 100 meeting, I asked Mr. Fisette about the six-year forecast, but he claimed ignorance. He asked me to e-mail him the information about it, and he would obtain an answer from staff. So after arriving home, I sent him the requested information on October 10, 2012. Now 23 days having passed, I am still waiting for Mr. Fisette to obtain the information from staff.

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