$78M pool plan spurs heated debate in Camas

Clark County

Voters will decide on November 5

CAMAS, Wash. (KOIN) — Voters in Camas are engaged in a heated debate on whether or not to build a 78,000-square foot community aquatics center through a $78 million bond levy on the November ballot.

Opponents say the city’s proposal is way too expensive and signs are popping up around Camas urging people to vote next month.

The proposed building site involves city-owned land across from Heritage Park in Camas. City leaders say some of the amenities will involve a community center with a leisure pool with slides and lazy river, a lap pool, fitness rooms with aerobic and weight equipment and a gymnasium with 2 courts for multiple sport uses.

Read the Camas Community Pool proposal at the bottom of this article

Signs supporting and opposing the Camas Pool Bond are seen throughout Camas, October 21, 2019 (KOIN)

In July the Camas City Council passed an ordinance to put the bond levy on the ballot. The 20-year bond also includes traffic improvements near the proposed center as well as upgrades to 3 other city-owned sports fields.

Until recently Camas had an aging outdoor pool at Crown Park. The city demolished it earlier this year.

A rendering of the proposed Camas Community Pool as seen on the City of Camas website, October 21, 2019

Pool bond opponents say it’s not that they don’t want a pool, but — among other things — they say the current plan will tax families out of Camas.

“It’s not well thought out. It’s too expensive,” said Phil “Red” Williams with the group No to Camas Pool Bond. “It’s going to last for a long time. Just plainly can’t afford it.”

Phil “Red” Williams with the group No to Camas Pool Bond, October 21, 2019 (KOIN)

Camas City Administrator Peter Capell said the city council had not imposed anything on the city.

“It’s the most democratic process,” Capell told KOIN 6 News. “(The council believes) this is what the community wanted and they’re asking the community. If the community doesn’t want it then it won’t happen.”

Camas City Administrator Peter Capell, October 21, 2019 (KOIN)

If voters do OK the bond levy, homeowners with an assessed property value of about $464,000 — which is the median for this area — would pay about $474 a year for the pool and other amenities.

The bond does not cover operating costs, so city leaders say there would also be fees to use the new facility.

Mayoral write-in candidates

A rendering of the proposed Camas Community Pool as seen on the City of Camas website, October 21, 2019

The issue was one of the reasons 2 other people have announced write-in candidacies in the mayor’s race.

Camas City Council Member Melissa Smith and Camas resident Barry McDonnell each recently announced a write-in effort to replace current Mayor Shannon Turk. In statements to KOIN 6 News, both Smith and McDonnell said there were other reasons for their last-minute effort, but the pool bond levy was one of the reasons.

“Other things were a tipping point,” Smith said, but the pool bond “was kind of the last straw.”

McDonnell told KOIN 6 News, “Although I am firmly against Proposition 2, that was not the single issue that spurned me to throw my name in for Mayor but definitely highlighted some of my frustrations.”

There is a mayoral debate in Camas on Tuesday night. McDonnell said he will be there to debate Turk, but Smith is recovering from minor neck surgery and will not be there.

Election Day is November 5.

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