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Pool issue mail ballot going out

| September 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Libby area voters will decide on a $2.8 million bond issue and $275,000 annual maintenance levy for a public aquatic center through a special mail election running from Oct. 21 through Nov. 15.

Ballots will be mailed to all voters in the Libby Park District — with boundaries matching the Libby School District — on Oct. 21. The ballots must be returned by Nov. 15, when they will be counted and the election decided. The last day to register and still participate in the election is Oct. 17.

"We're hoping to get the best voter turnout we possibly can," said Jim Germany, who chairs the committee that has drawn up plans for the pool.

In the 1980s, a ballot issue to fund the construction of a swimming pool received a majority of votes from those who participated in the election, but not enough people voted to make the election valid, Germany said. The 2005 Montana Legislature changed the law requiring at least a 40-percent turnout for special district elections, however. Now no minimum is required, Germany said.

"But we still don't want the bare minimum of people deciding this issue," he said.

Voters will be queried on two separate issues. The first asks for approval of a $2.8 million bond issue to fund construction of the pool, and the second is for a $275,000 annual levy to maintain it. Both must be approved for the project to move ahead, Germany said.

"Even though you vote on two separate things, they actually are hand in hand," he said.

The maintenance levy would take care of most of the estimated $300,000 in annual upkeep costs, keeping fees for pool users to a minimum, Germany said.

"If we're going to tax people for the pool, we don't want to charge them a lot to get in and use it," he said.

For the owner of a $100,000 house, the bond issue would equate to an annual tax increase of $74 over a 20-year period while the maintenance levy would add another $79 per year.

The proposal calls for a water slide area, a splash pad-spray toy area, a main pool for general activity, a rehabilitation area and a lap pool. A glass structure with opening panels is proposed for the lap pool area for year-round use. The lap pool would be a 25-meter pool with six lanes inside a 75-foot by 100-foot enclosure.

Germany said he has received "very positive" comments on the proposal with "only a handful" in opposition.

"Just from people talking and people stopping by, it's overwhelming support right now," he said.