OLYMPIA, Wash. - Pasco city leaders are celebrating new legislation that will allow them to take steps towards an aquatics center they've been trying to get approved for years.
“It’s been such a long time coming," said Pasco mayor pro tem Craig Maloney.
H.B. 1499 was signed by Governor Inslee on Thursday. It allows the Pasco Public Facilities District to propose a sales tax increase on the ballot for voters that would help fund a water park, without going through the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District and needing approval of the other cities.
“We’re continuing to grow and where a regional effort may have been the only way to get enough money in the past, now each individual city has the means to create something for their community and for the region," said Maloney.
The City of Pasco has floated the idea of building an aquatics center near the Broadmoor/Road 100 area, and it had a feasibility study done in 2016. Past efforts to increase the sales tax to fund a future water park were approved by Pasco voters but not by voters in Kennewick or Richland, which they needed. That changes under the newly signed bill.
Former Kennewick city councilmember and current state representative Matt Boehnke (R-Kennewick) voted against the bill this legislative session.
"One reason I voted 'no' was it does have the potential of gutting the funding for the regional public facilities district," said Rep. Boehnke. "Our goal was to come together and work as a team, as a region and Tri-Cities being one voice."
Rep. Boehnke said he reached out to city leaders in Kennewick, Richland and West Richland to get their opinion on the bill ahead of the vote.
"They said they still support Pasco's option but wanted [me] to oppose this because it goes against an opportunity that we can have through the TCRPFD - funding for more options like performing arts and convention center upgrades," he said.
A aquatics cetner proposal is now in the hands of the Pasco Public Facilities District, which will decide when to put something on the ballot or if a new feasibility study is needed.
“This effort is really about the City of Pasco not as a municipal organization but the people of Pasco getting to have their voice heard," said Maloney. "That is a world of opportunity.”