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RCC Pool Referendum Unlikely in 2014

by Karen Goff January 9, 2014 at 9:00 am 3 Comments

Reston Community CenterA referendum on whether to build a new Reston Community Center facility is unlikely to happen in 2014, RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon says.

The board has been discussing the idea of adding a new recreation center with a 50-meter indoor pool with residents and consultants with Brailsford & Dunlavey since February of 2013. RCC’s current indoor pool, at Hunters Woods, is 35 years old and need of modernization, RCC’s board of governors says. The board has proposed building an additional pool and rec center at Baron Cameron Park or at the area known as Town Center North.

RCC had hoped to be able to present the idea to Small Tax District 5 voters this year. However, Gordon says there still needs to be three-to-six months of more discussion before the plan can move forward, which means if RCC decides to move forward it would not be put to a referendum vote by November. It also would not be cost-effective to hold a special ballot, she said.

“I think it will take the next several months to get an understanding of the best opportunity,” said Gordon. “Once we know roughly where it would be and who we would be partnering with, then we can talk about priorities.”

The Brailsford & Dunlavy analysis last June estimated a new pool facility would cost about $35-40 million if built at Baron Cameron Park on land provided at no cost from the Fairfax County Park Authority.  That plan was met with mixed reaction from the community. Many residents near Baron Cameron Park are against the facility nearby and many residents throughout Small Tax District 5, which supports RCC, are against building a facility for the public with Reston taxpayer money.

Gordon said one of the ideas coming out of a two-day RCC Board of Governors retreat last week was the need to examine pricing and cost recovery scenarios. RCC’s usage fees have remained lower than most area facilities, and phasing in increases over the next several years would allow for less of a tax burden on residents if the project proceeds.

RCC raised its aquatics center fees Sept. 1 — only the second time in 34 years that drop-in fees have risen.

RCC has been running for the last several years at a 13-15 percent cost recovery level, Gordon said. An ideal level would be 25 percent, she added. With more money available at the start of building the new project, the quicker RCC could recoup its expense. B & D estimates after five years there cost recovery level would still only be 50 percent (Reston resident rate structure) to 71 percent (Fairfax County resident rate structure).

Cost recovery can make or break a plan. In Arlington County, a proposal to build a $79 million multi-pool aquatics facility ($42 million of it from an approved 2012 county bond) is re-evaluating costs after an original operating deficit estimate of  $1 million to $1.3 million was recently upped to $3.8 million after construction bids came in much higher than anticipated.

“The situation at Long Bridge Park in Arlington illustrates perfectly that the longer you are undertaking a project, there is a larger potential for the scope of planning to outstrip your resources,” said Gordon. “The cost of construction goes up.”

Another unknown variable: FCPA’s Master Plan for Baron Cameron Park, which should be released later this month. The Park Authority said last spring it is ready for improvements and additions of many recreational amenities at the 68-acre park at Wiehle Avenue and Baron Cameron Avenue.

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