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Star Gulch swimming hole dream deferred to 2014 or beyond

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
May 4th, 2013

Facing hard budgetary constraints, council decided at Wednesday evening’s committee-of-the-whole (COW) to defer a study on the potential conversion of the Star Gulch Reservoir beside Centennial Trail into a community swimming hole until at least 2014.

With the massive increase in the city’s water supply afforded by the construction of the Ophir Reservoir—but without the expected population boom that would have made that storage necessary—council included a goal in the most recent strategic plan to investigate the possibility of switching the city’s main water supply to the Ophir while opening Star Gulch to swimmers and beach-goers.

 

Kevin Terness, ISL Engineering’s point man on the downtown renovations, suggested to CAO Cecile Arnott that a feasibility study would cost on the order of $15,000 to $20,000, so Arnott had included a $10,000 line item for such a study to reflect council’s strategic goal in the draft financial plan.

 

“I love the idea, but I think we should take it out for this year,” Coun. Kathy Moore said, and raised a motion to defer the study.

 

Coun. Jody Blomme was reluctant to shut the door on the dream this year. “If we took it out for this year, would we put it back for next year?” she asked, and noted that if the feasibility study waits until 2014, the present council “wouldn’t have time to act on it [before the next election.]”

 

“It worries me that we are just striking this from the strategic plan,” she said.

 

Coun. Jill Spearn responded, “Plans change, and lots of times with a strategic plan you don’t tick off half the things. This is not a high priority for me at this time. It’s a cool idea, but we’ll be saving a few thousand dollars.”

 

Council supported the motion with Blomme opposed. Later Blomme raised a motion to conduct a $5000 study this year, to which Wallace said, “It’s a great idea, but this is a matter of priority.”

 

Moore also alluded to the complexity of the issue beyond switching pipes: “There are bigger questions about water and how we tax residents if we change it.” 

 

Currently the Ophir Reservoir has been funded through a parcel tax applied to residents in the Red Mountain Resort area, so if it were to become the city’s main water supply it would require a new funding approach.

 

Please note: all council decisions at a COW, as related here, are considered recommendations pending official ratification at a “regular” meeting, the next of which is on May 6. Other articles detail decisions made at the same meeting on debt financing for Columbia-Washington, a total cut to the Sustainability Commission, and minor cuts to other community groups,

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