Mixed Emotions Voiced on Proposed $6.1 Million St. Joseph Aquatic Center
ST. JOSEPH - A jam-packed room of people voiced their thoughts and opinions on a proposed $6.1 million outdoor aquatic center in St. Joseph.
The open forum happened at the end of the St. Joseph city council meeting on Monday night. The proposed aquatic center includes a lazy river, lap pool, splash pool, zero depth entry pool, climbing wall and a zip line. The aquatic center could be put on a site to the northwest of the intersecton of County Road 133 and Elm Street East.
Some residents voiced concerns about the cost and the scale of the project. Some added that there are plenty of other local options (Becker Community Center, St. Cloud quarries) for residents to go for swimming recreation. Others also cited safety concerns and the fact that the aquatic center will only be able to operate for a limited time when it's warm enough in the summer.
Former St. Joseph City Council member Stephen Frank says the city needs a better sense of priorities and should focus on a community center over an aquatics facility.
"I still don't know why we went from the idea of a splash pad to this-we need a sense of priorities."
Other residents voiced their support for the project. A few pointed out that having a large outdoor attraction would likely boost the local economy and would motivate people to visit St. Joseph. Some parents told the council that it would give families and children something to do during the leisurely summer months.
Several others felt the city should invest more time and resources to create a community center instead. St. Joseph is considering buying the former Kennedy school for a community facility. The council had a closed session before the meeting to discuss potentially buying the property. After the meeting, Mayor Rick Schultz said the city will host several other open forums for imput on the potential projects.
"There’s no flawless decisions but we want a decision that will benefit the community."
St. Joseph has been working with USAquatics to plan the aquatic facility. The project would be paid for through a local sales tax extension that was approved last November and fundraising.
A study presented to the city earlier this month said the facility would cost just over $253,000 to operate per year. However, the facility is projected to gather just over $285,000 per year, Creating a $32,000 operating surplus. The center would generate revenue through admission, swim lessons, concessions and rentals. The study recommended the center charge $6 per person for admission.
If the city moves forward and money is raised to start the aquatic center project, construction could start in mid-August with an opening in early June of 2016.