Crowd voices support for new facility – Packed crowd expresses want for community development center

Residents pack the Richfield City Council room Aug. 13. The council was hosting a public hearing concerning a new community development/recreation center.

A crowd of more than 100 people filled the Richfield City Council chambers Aug. 13, to express support for a new community development/recreation center.

The center would include an aquatics complex, gym, indoor track, classrooms and other features to be utilized by the public and college.

The meeting was hosted a day after the Sevier County Commission declined to have a formal vote on a measure that would put a bond election for the center on this year’s ballot. However, the commission announced a special meeting Monday to revisit the issue [see related story on this page].

“I was really disheartened,” said Richfield Mayor David Ogden. He said while he was disappointed by the commission’s decision to wait until it had more information he didn’t want the tone of the meeting to be negative.

“We need their support, but they felt like they needed more information,” Ogden said. “We are definitely not asking for a blank check.” 

“In fairness to them, they have to look out for their constituents,” said Bryan Burrows, city council member. 

Funding for the project, if the county were to pass the ballot issue, would result in essentially no change in the bottom line of what people are currently paying in property tax, said Richard Barnett, council member.

Richfield City would pay for its portion of the project by utilizing funds that are currently being used to pay debt service on a golf course expansion. That debt is to be retired in the next year. 

If county voters were to pass a bond, it would essentially replace one currently being used to pay debt service on the Sevier Valley Center, although at a lower rate than is currently being paid. That debt is also due to be retired in 2021, meaning that people’s property tax bills would still decrease, Barnett said. 

As far as providing more specific information about the design of the facility, it may take a significant investment, according to Pat Wilson. Wilson was Sevier School District’s business administrator during a 2013 effort to pass a $45 million bond, which resulted in the replacement of Richfield High School and several other capital projects in the county. 

“At that time, we had one picture of the design concept for the high school,” Wilson said. He said the concept for the high school had all the features outlined, but not a final design. 

“For us to go to an architect and get an architectural drawing would be about half a million dollars,” Wilson said. “You don’t do that until you have funding in place.”

Wilson said the community development center is similar. The concept includes 17 features, including a fitness loft, competition pool, outdoor pool with a lazy river and other features, zero point entry kids pool, slides, spectator galley, gymnasium, locker rooms, classrooms, childcare area, administration, a community use room, lifeguard area, slides and a mechanical area. 

Wilson said the exact configuration would be determined in the architectural design phase, similar to how other large-scale projects are built. 

Those who spoke at the public hearing voiced support of the center. 

“We can hold their feet to the fire,” said Tanner Thompson, a Richfield resident who spoke at the meeting. He said city leaders should make every effort to check off every box the commission has. 

“You can make it all their fault and none of your fault,” Thompson said. 

Others voiced general support of the project, such as Ryan Thalman.

“I can see the benefit for the growth of the community and for the entire county,” Thalman said. He said it would also help make Snow College Richfield a more attractive campus for students, as they would have more opportunities for student life activities at the center. 

The college committed to the city a long-term, $1 per year lease for the facility on a piece of property located near the intersection of 530 South and College Avenue for the project. The college’s participation is also vital to the building of the center, as the hope is the Utah Legislature would appropriate money for construction for the college, Ogden said. The college would also be on the hook for approximately $125,000 of operation and maintenance money, the same as the county, while Richfield City would roll over its current pool’s operating budget into the new facility to the tune of $250,000.

 “I have no children or grandchildren who would us it, but I will support it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Les Topham, another resident who spoke. 

The alternative of not building a new facility would change the community, according to several who spoke at the meeting.

“We would lose our swim teams,” said Crystal Anderson, swim coach. She said each year hundreds of youths participate in swim teams ranging from elementary rec league to competitive high school teams. 

“If we don’t do everything we can to do this, we will regret it,” said Dennis Jorgensen, another attendee at the meeting. “This is our time.”

While there are a lot of moving parts that have to line up, the model of the SVC partnership shows that a partnership like the one proposed could work, said K.L. McIff, who helped develop the community development center concept as well as the SVC.

“There were 22 funding sources that went into the SVC,” McIff said. “We have to do it together … we need this and we need it now.”

McIff said Sevier County and Richfield are in danger of being left behind if they do not work to actively compete with other communities. 

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