Hurricane residents cast ‘decisive vote’ on future of $25 million bond for new Hurricane rec center

ST. GEORGE — After months of discussion regarding the $25 million Hurricane recreation center bond, the idea was shot down by voters during the general municipal elections Tuesday.

According to preliminary results posted Tuesday evening, over 76% of Hurricane residents voted to deny the bond, with 3,277 voting against and 1,031 voting in support.

The city council unanimously voted to include the 20-year bond on the November ballot in August but re-voted in September in September after Councilman Kevin Thomas changed his stance. The motion still passed but only by a vote of 3-2.

Wil DuCrest, a Hurricane resident and administrator of the Hurricane Recreation Center Advocacy Group Facebook group, told St. George News that although the bond didn’t pass, he’s pleased with the outcome.

“Personally, I wanted the bond to pass, but I was really happy that it was a decisive vote, one way or the other,” he said. “I was worried about it being a 50-50 split where half the people wanted it and half the people didn’t.”

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

DuCrest said the voting process is important to him, and when the bond was placed in front of people whom it directly affected on election day, they were clear in their decision.

The biggest reason DuCrest believes the bond didn’t pass was because of its funding source: raising property taxes.

The 20-year bond would be funded through a 2.56% increase on residents’ property taxes.

The city would also be saddled with funding the operational costs of the 60,000-square-foot facility, which, based on the 110,000-square-foot Washington City Community Center expenses, would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 a year, not including additional costs like power and water.

DuCrest said he believes a similar bond could be proposed in the future that explores alternative sources of funding outside creating a tax impact for residents, and he welcomes further discussion on the matter.

“I started the advocacy group because there was no discussion happening,” DuCrest said. “People didn’t even know about the bond, they didn’t know about the proposed rec center. It was meant to get a good discussion going, and I think at the end of the day, it accomplished that.”

In this September 2019 file photo, Hurricane council members Kevin Thomas and Cheryl Reeve take a stance against the idea of using a general obligation bond to fund a recreation center at a Hurricane City Council meeting, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 5, 2019 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

DuCrest used the group to welcome constructive conversation about potential benefits and detriments to approving the bond and continuing with the local rec center. A lot of discussion, he said, was geared toward finding alternative ways to fund the facility.

Residents pushed for officials involved with the project to be more patient and save money instead of borrowing, ask for private donations, and look more closely at available facilities as opposed to starting a new structure from scratch.

Another resident, Mike Parker, also started a Facebook group with the intent of civil discourse, but his opposed the bond. After the clerk auditor finished counting for the night, Parker issued a statement saying he and other homeowners in the area are pleased with the outcome of the evening’s results.

“We had no money, no mailers, no yard signs—just a Facebook group and a few hundred concerned citizens,” the statement said. “I’m honestly not sure how much impact we had, but hopefully our efforts helped Hurricane residents understand why spending $25 million (plus interest) on a rec center that many people won’t even be able to afford to use is irresponsible and unfair.”

In this September 2019 file photo, the Hurricane City Council listens to the public’s concerns regarding a $25 million bond to fund a recreation center in Hurricane at a special Hurricane City Council Meeting at Hurricane High School, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 19, 2019 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

Parker said the death of the proposed bond is not where his concerns end, however, adding that there seem to be “two very different visions for what Hurricane should be.” He said while some residents might want to see the city become a destination that reaps the benefits of a number of visitors and the money they spend, others want to continue to enjoy a smaller community where taxes are used used frugally and only to provide citizens with necessary services.

Since moving from California 12 years ago, Parker said he has witnessed a 40% increase in taxes over the past six years, including an increase from a county school bond passed last year and a quarter-percent increase on sales tax throughout the county.

“We stopped another tax increase today, but no doubt the supporters of tax-and-spend will be back again in future elections, demanding more money,” Parker wrote. “We need to organize to defeat future tax measures.”

Final results will be posted on the clerk auditor’s website Wednesday evening.

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

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