Committee formed to study prospective ballot issues

More than 600 people responded to a town-wide survey asking Wellington residents for their opinions on the construction of a northwest neighborhood park and aquatic center closer to downtown. Town trustees initiated the survey to gauge taxpayers’ interest in a ballot issue to pay for one or both projects.

At a work session prior to the Aug. 13 trustees’ meeting, discussion revolved around the need for compromise and the assumption, gathered from survey responses, that residents are not likely to vote for both a park and an aquatic center. The idea of building a recreation center/gymnasium was dropped for lack of support as evidenced in the survey and because of prohibitive costs. There is strong support for the park from residents of Buffalo Creek subdivision, but willingness to allow a mill levy increase is “borderline” according to town manager Larry Lorentzen.

Trustee Jack Brinkhoff is leaning toward placing only the park issue on the ballot. After some research, he believes the park can be built for much less money than the original estimates. For example, one quote for dirt work came in at $160,000 and another for $65,000. He is on a committee charged with bringing firm figures for the park development to the next town board meeting.

A separate committee will hash out issues around the aquatic center. Arlene Matlock, a new Wellington resident with extensive experience with aquatic centers, has volunteered to be on the committee.

Brinkhoff has learned that two mill levy increases would be necessary for the aquatic center: one for the building, and another for on-going maintenance. Aquatic centers are never self-supporting, research shows. A dedicated tax would be needed to keep the facility “afloat,” he said.

Brinkhoff said a community of 30,000 to 50,000 people is required to support an aquatic center. Wellington’s estimated population is about 6,500, according to U.S. Census data.

Trustees agreed that the two issues will remain separate on the ballot and the general consensus was that it is unlikely that both measures will pass.

After the park and aquatic center committees have done their work, the Wellington Town Board will select one or more ballot issues based on their findings, place them on the ballot, and allow the voters to decide which amenities they most want to see in town.

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