I was pleased to read in The Other Paper that the city council will defer a vote on the recreation center until the taxpayers vote on a new school. Priority should focus on the school board’s efforts.
That is not to say that I agree with all that the board is proposing. Providing our youth with an excellent education has been a traditional priority for South Burlington. Topnotch schools have also been an invaluable asset for our economy.
South Burlington is in the process of developing a new city center, which includes a new city hall, library and senior center. When given the opportunity to vote on these projects, I supported them. I did not vote in support of a recreation center for the simple reason that I believe it is asking too much of the taxpayers. Increased taxes are not the only costs residents would be expected to assume. It is my understanding the costs of operation, staffing and maintenance would be partially offset by requiring residents to purchase memberships or daily fees to use the facility.
Last week, The Other Paper contained a notice from the school board promoting a new physical education and athletic center. This effort may well duplicate facilities being proposed in the recreation center.
Rather than constructing a new recreation center, I recommend that the city negotiate with The Edge Sports and Fitness to allow South Burlington residents to use its facilities at a reduced rate. In exchange, The Edge Sports and Fitness would receive a reduction in taxes.
Tax incentives are commonly used to attract new businesses to Vermont. In this case, I believe it would be an appropriate use of tax dollars. If, at some future date, circumstances dictate a valid need for a recreation center, the subject can be addressed again. At such time, the recreation department will have accurate usage data for planning purposes.
Two immediate benefits of this course of action are:
• South Burlington residents will have immediate access to excellent recreational facilities in South Burlington, Essex and Williston. The Edge’s facilities include three swimming pools, an indoor multi-purpose athletic facility, tennis courts, squash and racquetball courts, an indoor walking track, basketball court, weight training and physical fitness facilities, physical therapy facilities, nutritionists, etc.
• South Burlington taxpayers will not be overburdened with too many projects at one time.
Robert L. Walsh