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Our Opinion: Stay centered on aquatics

June 16, 2002

The Calexico City Council can find a way to get a multi-million dollar aquatic center built in Calexico without issuing bonds, but if Tuesday's council meeting is any indication, three and maybe four of five councilmen don't want to work at figuring out how.

The council is missing a big opportunity to provide a unique recreational opportunity for residents of Calexico, Mexicali and the entire Imperial Valley.

An aquatic center could feature a pool that Calexico High School could use to host swim meets, a warm water pool in which senior citizens could exercise, some slides for the kids and maybe a wave machine if Calexico wanted to think really big.

Mayor John Renison put an item on Tuesday's City Council agenda to find out if the new City Council wanted to get an aquatic center built. The previous council, featuring the now departed Gilbert Grijalva and Javier Alatorre, had voted against moving ahead with plans to build an aquatic center.


Renison's two new colleagues, David Ouzan and Alex Perrone, and two remaining councilmen, Victor Carrillo and Frank Montoya, again shot down the idea. Perrone said the city can't afford a center now. Montoya said he wouldn't support building a center until he knew how it would be financed. Carrillo, who had been a staunch supporter at a previous meeting, said the council should discuss the idea at an upcoming workshop. Ouzan said financiers hoping to sell bonds for the city were pushing the project.

Renison was left bobbing without water wings.

Maybe the council knows something we don't about the financiers who appeared before the council earlier this year offering their services. Those financiers said the city could sell $6 million in bonds and pay for a center without tapping into general fund revenue. The financiers presented the council with a "free" estimate from a Central California pool building firm.

Let's say the council smelled something there and decided to hold off. Bully for that. But why take no action at all on the aquatic center if the issue of financing was the only sticking point?

The idea of building an aquatic center is a good one. It becomes a great idea if an entity besides the city pays to build and operate it.

Perrone said the council should bring in the private sector. He's right but the council didn't give direction to the Redevelopment Agency staff to do that Tuesday night. It did nothing.

We feel the rising economic tide here in the Imperial Valley will help make an aquatic center a viable proposition for an entrepreneur from the private sector, and Imperial Valley residents deserve a place to cool down when the temperature is 112 outside. It's up to the Calexico City Council, or another local city council, to woo that entrepreneur.

Renison said Tuesday he is confident the aquatic center idea would be brought back before the council in two years. Let's hope it returns before then.

Calexico's senior citizens, splash-happy kids and wet-and-wild high schoolers deserve a nice place to cool off.

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