The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors are letting the public decide if they should spend $13.1 million on a community center, voting 4-3 at their monthly meeting Tuesday to add a referendum question to the ballot in November.
The question will read: “Shall Culpeper County, Virginia contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in the maximum principal amount of $13,144,000 for the purpose of paying the costs, in whole or in part, for construction of a Community Recreation Center, which may include an indoor competition swimming pool, a therapy pool, a multi-purpose gymnasium, fitness equipment, exercise class space, classrooms for various activities, and a soccer field, as well as necessary access, parking, and utility improvements?”
The vote for the referendum passed 4-3, with supervisors Bill Chase, Steve Walker and Jack Frazier opposing. Frazier suggested the board was moving too quickly and should have the referendum in 2019, to give more time to research.
Supervisors who voted to put the referendum on the budget were Gary Deal, Brad Rosenberger, Alexa Fritz and Sue Hansohn.
The projected building is estimated at $9.8 million, site development should cost $1.6 million and off-site costs would total $1.5 million. That sets the total cost for the community center at $13.1 million.
The proposed center would include a competition sized pool with 8 lanes 25 yards in length. A therapy pool is also budgeted along with two basketball courts, a fitness area, an aerobics room, preschool rooms, a nursery, an activity room and office space.
It is not known who will operate the facility, and Cedar Mountain District supervisor Frazier suggested there should be a memorandum of understanding with an entity before moving forward with the referendum.
“We’re moving kind of fast,” Frazier said. “We’re taking this to a referendum with no agreement from anyone to run this thing.”
There has been discussions with the YMCA operating the facility, but no agreement is in place. Frazier also suggested other Culpeper businesses could step forward to help, but again said they are moving along too soon without a business plan in place.
“I’d like to see a contract, there are some important issues that we’re not discussing,” Frazier said. “I’m not sure this location (in the Catalpa District) fits our needs, there’s utility costs, there’s so many issues that need to be addressed before we move forward.”
West Fairfax Supervisor Gary Deal has championed the community center from the start and he gave an impassioned plea as to why the facility is needed.
“It will be a center that brings our community together,” Deal said. “We’re asking the voting public to consider improving quality of life for all.”
He told a story about having to take his AAU basketball team to the Orange Field House to practice because there was not enough gymnasium space in Culpeper.
He argued with Chase when Chase again questioned who was going to run the facility.
“We don’t have to get there today,” Deal said. “We’re going to own the building.”
“Owning the building doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t know what your going to use it for,” Chase countered.
Jefferson District supervisor Rosenberger said that the purpose of the referendum was to see if the public wanted to take on the debt. It doesn’t mean they are tied to funding the center.
“If the referendum passes, it doesn’t mean we have to move forward,” he said. “”We have to make sure we have approval of the voters.”
East Fairfax representative Walker said that citizens have approached him with a wide variety of concerns and again cautioned moving too fast.
“I question the need for gymnasiums,” he said. “We have an obligation to work with our school system to make sure gyms are available for our citizens. That’s an issue for me.”
The subject of a community pool is one that Walker said he’s been addressing for 25 years, back when he was on town council.
“I’m all in favor of a swimming pool, I think it’s something we need,” he said. “I think we’re not ready for a referendum at this time.”
Catalpa supervisor Hansohn pointed out that in approving the Fiscal Year 2019 budget earlier in the meeting, the supervisors had set aside $2.4 million to pay down debt service as a forward thinking effort. The FY 2019 budget is $62.6 million, which included $200,000 budgeted for community center design work.
“I personally don’t think we’re ready,” Walker said. “We have to be very careful how we speak about it so it doesn’t sound like we’re endorsing this.”
“I understand Mr. Walker’s concerns,” Rosenberger countered. “We need to let the people decide what they want to do.”