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Pool referendum investment for the future

Marshall residents make a big decision on Tuesday, Nov. 7, as they vote to approve or reject a special referendum to raise sales taxes to fund a new city aquatic center.

Their decision will determine whether Marshall will be able to provide the community with state of the art summer recreation at a prolonged cost, or avoid increased sales taxes at the expense of city amenities. There are pros and cons to the current proposal, but funding a new aquatic center means an investment in the city’s future.

There is little disagreement that the current aquatic center is no longer viable and needs more than simple repairs. It was built in the 1930s, and despite ongoing maintenance, leaks up to 15,000 gallons of water per day. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are failing. The facility is dated in its offerings, and not fully accessible to all members of the community.

While some object to the expense of the proposal, starting at $18.95 million, less costly alternatives such as rebuilding the current facility, has been determined to be even more costly. But the proposal has been criticized on several points.

Detractors express concerns about the cost and safety of the location, as well as the size of the swim area, increased staffing needs, and the lack of certain features, such as expanded room for swimming instruction. By far the likely greatest concern for most voters is the expense of the proposal, which could go higher depending upon variables such as generated revenues, added features, and unexpected costs. If projected revenues from the increased sales taxes are correct, it will take at least 11 years for the project to break even. Some residents are uncomfortable adding to the current city debt. Some dislike having to funding a recreational project over a lengthy amount of time, especially for an outdoor city pool that is not open year round.

Despite these misgivings, there are strong reasons to favor the proposal. Not least of these is the value that such an amenity provides to the community and visitors to the city of Marshall. Many residents have fond memories of their time spent at the current city pool. These generations benefited from an affordable form of recreation that offers children a safe outdoor place to socialize and cool off during the summer. Passing this referendum means ensuring that current and future generations have the same opportunity, especially in the face of a warming climate.

Moreover, the design of the proposed aquatic center is a modern one. It doubles the water surface size and is more accessible to citizens of ranging ages and mobility levels. It offers contemporary features such as a leisurely river, water slides, low grade water entry, and a splash pad.

The proposed site of the new aquatic center, the Schwann’s green area at the intersection of Saratoga St. and College Drive is 1.8 acres larger than the current Legion Field site. This means more room for parking and possible future growth. It is centrally located and close to the library, YMCA, and other downtown attractions.

It can be projected that an updated aquatic center will draw visitors to Marshall, benefiting local restaurants, shops, and other businesses.

Some say that the project can be completed for less, but no viable or comprehensive alternatives have been offered. Earlier proposals have failed and should the project again be delayed, it is only a matter of time before the current pool will need urgent repairs, or close its doors. It is certain that the cost of a replacement aquatic center will only increase.

While the proposed aquatic center may have some imperfections, it is a worthy investment for the future of Marshall.

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