City Council tie vote postpones aquatic complex funding

OCEANSIDE — The City Council deadlocked in a vote to approve funds for designs and environmental studies that would move forward the aquatic complex at El Corazon on March 4.

Lack of a funding plan and an uncertain project cost caused Mayor Jim Wood and Councilman Chuck Lowery to vote against approving $1.2 million in capital reserve funds for the project. Both said they needed more information.

“It’s nice to have things that are nice, but how are we going to pay for it,” Wood said.

A Feb. 9 memo from former City Manager Steve Jepsen was shared that stated funding could be secured by reissuing bonds after retirement of the General Obligation Bond Funding for the Civic Center in 2019. This solution calls for the city to pay new bond costs to the tune of $1.7 million annually for construction and operations. The construction cost is estimated at $1.1 million for 25 years, but a firm bond and interest cost is not known.

City consultant Peter Weiss said some funding might be secured from other sources. MiraCosta College may agree to provide partial funding for building or operations.

Weiss added staff is working on a project funding timeline, and would have more information to share in April.

Councilmen Jack Feller and Jerry Kern voted in favor of approving funds. Kern said designs and studies would give the City Council a better picture of the exact building cost, which is estimated between $12 million to $14.5 million and needed funding.

“The cost, we won’t know it until we do this,” Kern said. “This has got to be the first step.”

No one spoke against the pool, but there were questions about the $2.5 million gap in estimated cost and the uncertain interest rate.

Oceanside resident Nadine Scott said council was jumping the gun, and asked that staff come back with a fully financed plan.

Other residents were OK with moving the project forward without a final cost estimate, and stressed the need for a competition length pool.

“I encourage you to move forward with the project,” Scott Wagner, El Camino High School swim coach, said. “It will behoove you to go to practice and see how it (the current and smaller Brooks Street pool) is such a community hub.”

Design plans will include additional improvements to the El Corazon Senior Center that shares the site with the planned aquatic complex. Weiss said a decision to implement center renovations could be made further down the road.

If funding for plans and studies are approved, building the aquatic center is anticipated to start in 2017.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez was absent from the meeting. She has supported the project and is expected to vote in favor of funding when the item returns to the City Council next meeting to break the 2-2 vote deadlock.

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