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Plans for aquatic center unveiled

March 14, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — For around $6 million this city's Redevelopment Agency could build a 2-3 acre aquatic center that houses two pools and includes water-park elements such as slides, according to a financial consultant.

Robert Swerdling, a Torrance-based managing director of public finance for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray of Minneapolis, said one of the pools would be half the size of a Olympic pool — six to eight lanes for competition purposes — and the other would be a warm water multi-purpose pool.

Swerdling unveiled the plans for a $6 million center after consulting with engineering firm Rowley International of Palos Verdes. He had been asked by this city's Redevelopment Agency board to find out how Calexico could build a scaled-down version of Monterey's $25 million aquatic center.


Swerdling has worked with the city previously; orchestrating a $9 million bond sale that allowed the joint powers authority of the Heffernan Memorial Hospital District and the city to refinance a previous bond issuance. The refinancing of the bond pulled the Heffernan district out of a debt.

Before Swerdling works with the city again, the RDA board will have to approve a $50,000 contract.

For $50,000, Swerdling said he would start writing a financing mechanism that would allow the city to sell $4.7 million in bonds using the city's water revenues as collateral. To do that, he'll have to confer with attorneys and public works experts. Once the bonds are sold, the $50,000 would be repaid, he said.

Swerdling makes his money on such deals by taking a commission on the bond sale.

To cover the cost beyond the $4.7 million, Swerdling told the RDA board that more than $2.25 million could come from the city's 2001 $8 million RDA bond sale.

The $900,000 above the $6 million cost for the center would be deposited as a safeguard in case the economy crashes.

Using the $2.25 million in RDA funds would exhaust unspent money from the $8 million bond sale, Swerdling said. In addition, the cost to the city's general fund could be $200,000 or $300,000 a year.

To offset the allocation of so much money, Swerdling said the city could charge gate fees. He said the center would create around 10-15 jobs.

"It's a good project — if the council decided this is how to spend their resources," he said.

Councilman Javier Alatorre wanted to know where the pool would be built. Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said Burlingame developer Wen-I Chang could provide 2, 3 or 4 acres inside the proposed Calexico International Center at the corner of Jasper Road and Highway 111.

"Some people might say ‘Jasper Road?' but that's where the action is," he added.

That said, he isn't enamored with the $6 million price tag.

"The numbers need to be fine-tuned," he said.

Alatorre wanted to know if Swerdling had talked with the Calexico school district about working on a partnership.

Swerdling said City Manager Richard Inman had mentioned a partnership and others had talked about the possibility of a grant writer being brought in.

He said the $6 million proposal was preliminary.

"We can still skinny it down," Swerdling said.

Councilman Frank Montoya said, "I like the idea — swimming pools and everything else … I want to hear from staff."

Inman said the council was being asked to allow Swerdling to proceed with an analysis.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said, "For four years I have said the RDA should spend money on projects that will return money into the kitty. I don't think we should move forward with a project that would deplete the budget."

Renison said he would like to "pursue this" but he wouldn't vote on a $6 million center.

"We need to play with the numbers," he said.

Mayor Victor Carrillo said, "One, it's a quality of life issue. Two, we need to give back to the community and provide recreation for the entire community. I remember hearing the same arguments to hold back when we were talking about the theaters. We went ahead with that and provided an opportunity for the city's youth. The city has been holding back for many years."

At the next RDA meeting, the board could approve a resolution entering into the $50,000 agreement with Swerdling.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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