The wording for a pool referendum for the Nov. 8 election in Waunakee is now set.
At their meeting Tuesday, village board members approved the following question to put to voters:
“Should the Village construct a public outdoor aquatics facility with an estimated construction cost of $9.4 million?”
After months of discussion, weighing the benefits and costs of an indoor-outdoor facility before settling on an outdoor pool with the option to add an indoor section later, the village board has one piece left to the puzzle: the location.
The board has said the plan is to locate the pool either in an existing park or one yet to be dedicated. But some have questioned whether voters will support a facility at an unknown location.
During the public comment section of the July 5 meeting, Waunakee resident Mary Ellen Kearney reiterated that point, saying people she has spoken to about the pool referendum say they would like to know its location, and would not support a pool “way out on Hogan Road.”
Land was set aside there about a decade ago for a skate park and potential pool location.
Village Board President Chris Zellner said the difficulty is, no land is readily available in the village’s center, so feasible locations are on Waunakee’s edges. Those living far from the pool location may not support it, Zellner said.
“What we want to know is if people want a pool,” he said.
Educating voters prior to November will be important, Trustee Nila Frye said.
Zellner added that finance director Renee Meinholz has informed the board of the costs and the effect on the budget, allowing members to arrive at a comfortable price point. A location in the center of the community could cost several millions of dollars more, he said.
“I think it’s important for us to be considering our parklands, where they currently are,” Zellner said, adding those are village-owned properties. Future parks are also on tap, such as at Kilkenny West and Golden Ponds near Westbridge.
“It’s going to be in one of our parks; we just don’t know which one,” Zellner said
Trustee Gary Herzberg said the only village-owned location in the center of town would be the ball diamond at Village Park.
“I don’t think the community would buy into that,” Herzberg said, adding the village could use one of the softball diamonds.
Another option would be to negotiate with the American Legion for a land swap, Zellner said, adding, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Trustee Erin Moran said the location is important, noting a higher density area without existing private pools would be preferable.
“I hope we can find the right spot,” Moran said, adding she would like the location to be chosen by Nov. 8.
Trustee Sam Kaufmann has heard support for any location except Hogan Road, he said.
Along with the actual question to pose to voters, village staff presented a draft explanatory statement to be printed as the referendum is noticed. It states:
The Village Board of the Village of Waunakee would like input from Village residents on a very important issue. As many Village residents know, the Village Board is considering borrowing approximately $9.4 million for the purpose of constructing a public outdoor aquatics facility. In May, the Village Board directed Village staff to prepare an advisory referendum question to be placed on the November 8, 2022 general election ballot. If the Village moves forward with the project, the approximate property tax impact will be an additional $44 per $100,000 in assessed property value. This figure includes the $9.4 million needed for construction as well as the additional tax levy needed to subsidize the operational revenue.
The site for this facility has not yet been determined, but it is the intention of the Board that it will be one which is already owned by the Village, so that there will not be land acquisition costs associated with the project.
A “yes” vote on this referendum question means that you support the Village of Waunakee constructing a public outdoor aquatics facility at an estimated cost of $9.4 million.
A “no” vote on this referendum question means that you do not support the Village of Waunakee constructing a public outdoor aquatics facility at an estimated cost of $9.4 million.
Moran asked about the possibility of the board later finding a site to acquire for the facility.
The referendum is non-binding, attorney Bryan Kleinmaier said, intended to provide information from the residents to guide the board’s decision. But if the board received an offer to purchase land at low cost, the board could contemplate the offer, Kleinmaier added.
Village Administrator Todd Schmidt said a non-binding referendum can be treated as an effective survey tool.
Staff can rewrite the explanatory statement to read that the intention is not to incur land acquisition costs, Schmidt said. Village staff will bring the explanatory statement back with revisions at a future meeting.