Mark the calendar: In one year and three weeks, West Valley residents can start jogging, sloshing, jump-shooting and toning in a new Family Fitness and Wellness Center.

That was the commitment from West Valley officials Thursday night as the City Council voted 5-1 to adopt a property tax increase that will bankroll a $13.26 million revenue bond issue.The vote came at the close of an often-testy two-hour public hearing that drew an overflow crowd of some 250 people at City Hall.

A parade of 33 residents debated the pros and cons of the tax increase and its main beneficiary, the new recreation complex, before the split council vote ended the discussion for good.

The tax increase will cost the owner of a $120,000 home $36 per year, or an increase of about 29 percent over the city's current property levy.

Councilman Duane Moss cast the dissenting ballot, saying he remains opposed to a revenue bond issue and would like to see the matter placed before voters in the form of a general obligation bond.

The revenue bonds, to be issued by the city's Municipal Building Authority, will:

- Construct a 96,000-square-foot fitness center by Oct. 1, 1999.

- Complete the development of Centennial Park at 4350 West 3100 South.

- Help pay for the long-term operations and maintenance of both facilities.

- Build a 4,000-square-foot police substation in the park to serve the northwest quadrant of the city.

In addition to the tax increase, the city will charge user fees to help defray the costs of fitness center operations.

A proposed fee schedule calls for daily use fees of $2 to $3 based on age, and annual fees that range from $110 a year for seniors to $320 a year per family.

Prior to the hearing, residents listened to a 90-minute explanation of the fitness center and park expansion plan, along with endorsements from local physicians, business owners and city officials.

That lengthy presentation irked a number of people who turned out at the hearing to oppose the recreation center, the tax increase or both.

"I'm outraged by the process," complained West Valley resident Charles Monk. "A high school senior can recognize a filibuster."

Monk and several other residents said that if the council decided to approve the tax increase, efforts should be made to eliminate "all the fluff" and reduce the cost of the facility to aid taxpayers.

Others questioned the impact of the tax increase on senior citizens and West Valley residents with low or fixed incomes.

"It's getting to the point I'm getting taxed right out of my home," said Lucille Kelbch, adding she would like to see any tax increases go to the police department to improve protection.

"I'm not opposed to the recreation center," she added, "but I don't think senior citizens should pay for it."

Richard Millet challenged the validity of city polls and a 1994 pro-recreation center vote that city officials believe provide a powerful mandate for a tax hike that would support recreation.

A public vote on this issue, he said, "is the only vote that matters."

But opponents of the tax increase were outnumbered about two to one by supporters who argued West Valley is ready for a facility that will take kids off the streets and provide them with recreational alternatives.

"This is something my kids need," said Pat Rolfe.

"I don't know what price we can put on safe, valuable and wholesome recreation families can do together," said Steve Hyde.

"There are three kind of cities," added Gerald Buttars - "Those who watch things happen, those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened. I think we need to look to the future."

And then there were a few folks such as Frank Fitch, who said he "came here opposed" to the tax increase but told the council, "I leave here supporting" the proposal.

City Manager John Patterson said the design is far enough along that work can begin in the next few weeks.

To get the fitness center project moving, the council also authorized agreements with an architectural firm and a construction management company to work on the center, the park expansion and the police substation.



West Valley Family Fitness and Wellness Center

Proposed fee schedule*

Annual Passes Daily use fees

Youth $135/yr. Child $2/day

Adult $175/yr. Teen $2.50/day

Seniors $110/yr. Adult $3/day

Family $320/yr. Seniors $2/day

* Subject to adjustment by the City Council

Source: West Valley City