An outdated center vs. ‘irresponsible’ bond; Hurricane City Council holds 2nd hearing on rec center

ST. GEORGE — The Hurricane City Council read prepared written arguments both for and against the proposed $25 million bond to fund a recreation center in town at a public meeting Thursday night before opening it up to discussion. 

This marked the second public meeting held in regards to the 20-year general obligation bond being put to a vote during the November elections. The first was held Sept. 19.

Council member Kevin Tervort read both the “for” and “against” arguments and rebuttals. The statements in favor of the rec center were written by the Hurricane City Council, while the ones opposing it were written by former Hurricane Mayor Tom Hirschi. 

The statements written in support of the approximately 60,000-square-foot facility addressed a need for a recreation center, saying the town’s current community center is outdated, overcrowded and in need of repairs. 

It also discussed how the center would provide additional recreational opportunities for local youth and space for community events.

The statements against the rec center spoke out against the new property taxes the bond would create and the recreation center’s potential competition with private businesses.

It also argued that going into debt is “irresponsible.” 

The Hurricane City Council is addressed at a public meeting at the Hurricane High School, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 4, 2019 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

After the statements were read, the floor was opened up for community questions and comments. Hirschi was one of the first in line to make a statement, arguing that the “pros” statement contradicted itself. 

“It says we became an outdoor mecca for activities, which we have. So why are we trying to bring people inside? I don’t understand. … We’ve got to be responsible with our tax money. That’s all there is to it,” he said. 

Many of the community members once again expressed distaste for the idea of the rec center, but the council said the reason they are bringing the issue to a vote is because of the large number of requests they receive for a recreation center, which is second only to the question of when more restaurants will be brought in. 

A common concern among the residents in attendance had to do with voting for a bond to pay for a center without knowing how it will be built, what exactly will be included and how much it will actually cost. 

Council member Darin Larson said the current plans for the rec center and what it will include are preliminary and not necessarily what the final center will look like,. 

The Hurricane City Council at a public meeting at the Hurricane High School, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 4, 2019 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

“Nothing is set in stone. Most of this is conceptual,” he said. “We have to lay it out – it’s kind of the maximums on cost, what facilities potentially could be. We’ve had to state that. But if the bond passes that’s when the real work actually begins.”

Even if the bond is voted for in November, the council must still perform a feasibility study. If that feasibility study comes back negatively, they do not have to follow through with the rec center, and the bond will no longer be an issue, Council member Pam Humphries said. 

But many in attendance asked why the council has not already performed a feasibility study to see if the center is going to work before putting it to a vote. 

City Manager Clark Fawcett said they chose to wait to perform the study because the cost of a study is high, and they wanted to be sure the community wanted the center before paying for it. 

“We tried to spend the least amount of money we can to get to this point and then put it before the people,” Fawcett said. “If it is something people want, they’ll vote for it in elections and we’ll go through that process. If not, I just don’t want to spend the money.” 

Another common concern from the first public meeting had to do with the potential for the rec center to compete with private businesses. Representatives from several local gyms and fitness companies were in attendance and spoke about their concerns that the center will negatively impact their business. 

Nikki Revis, owner of RevvFitness in Hurricane, said she has been able to grow her business by 600% in the past two years since she didn’t have a “one-stop-shop” to compete with. She also said the rec center’s monthly membership rates are comparable to her per-person rates since that’s what she has to charge to pay for her overhead costs. 

A concept drawing of the proposed Hurricane Recreation Center | Image courtesy of the Hurricane City Council, St. George News

“If you guys implement this one-stop-shop, it will impact me. It will impact my fellow business owners in the same industry. You are directly competing with us,” she said. 

Larson said the council is not trying to directly compete with private business owners and met with multiple fitness companies individually last week to discuss how they could make the situation work. 

“They gave us the insight to their private businesses and maybe ways that we can partner with them,” he said. “Our goal is not to put them out of business. We do realize there’s an impact to their businesses, and if there’s ways that we can work with them if this bond passes, we’re all for it.” 

One possible option on the table is removing the cardio and gym sections of the rec center from the plans so as not to directly compete with local businesses offering those services. 

Humphries said if the bill is passed, a committee would be formed to decide the final details of what the rec center would look like, taking into account any competition with private enterprise as well as feasibility. 

The committee would consist of members of the community with a direct interest in the project, including fitness center owners, who would sit down with the center designers and city employees to finalize the plans. Anyone in the community would be welcome to apply to be on the committee if the bond is passed. 

In addition to the Q&A portion of the meeting, the council also voted to approve a preliminary plat for the Front 9 at Sky Mountain, a 99-acre residential subdivision on which the builder, Perry Homes of Utah, LC and Lagom, LC, plan to build 224 multifamily units and 124 single-family units. 

The council’s next meeting will be a “Meet the Candidates” event and will take place Tuesday at Hurricane High School at 6:30 p.m. Those who wish to submit a question to the candidates can do so by emailing them to [email protected] prior to the meeting. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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