Rec center issue still stirs Fruita

During lively meeting, official says 2nd vote on proposal likely

Fruita leaders tried to quell contentious sentiment over the recent defeat of a recreation center proposal, but snide comments slipped out anyway Monday night during a town meeting.

At one point during the forum, which was hosted by the Fruita Chamber of Commerce, recreation center opponent Linda Deaton asked the audience for a show of hands of how many people thought city taxes weren’t high enough.

Deaton’s question was thrown out after some audience members protested, but she and the rest of the community will probably have the opportunity to vote again in November on a city recreation center, said City Council member Terry Moss.

“I was the most for it and I’ll be scrutinizing it the most,” said Moss who gauged that all the five other council members will vote during a mid-July meeting to put a proposed recreation center back on the ballot.

A proposal for a $12 million Fruita recreation center failed in April on a 1,262-1,262 tie vote. It would have been funded by a 1 percent sales tax, or one penny on every dollar, which would have increased the city sales tax to 3 percent.

Opponents on Monday night said a center would compete unfairly with other businesses such as local fitness gyms and hotel conference rooms and would raise property taxes. They said businesses would pass those tax increases onto consumers.

“Any like business is going to going to be hurt by this,” Robert Richardson told the audience.  Richardson is a Fruita resident and works for the United States Postal Service.

“When they start this out, they can use tax dollars to keep prices low,” Richardson said. “We already have a city pool and a high school pool. This is a situation where people should decide on this, not the city or council.”

Aside from Richardson, the forum featured Deaton, a local business owner; and recreation center proponents Wilma Erven, director of culture and recreation for Delta, and David Karisny, an employee of Mesa County School District 51.

Erven countered statements from opponents, saying a public recreation center improves quality of life and attracts residents who can’t afford or don’t feel comfortable in typical free-market fitness centers. Delta’s center not only provides fitness programs at low costs but it serves as community center offering space for conventions and meetings.

“If you don’t think youths need it, you build it and you will see,” she said.

The recreation center would include a pool, utilizing Fruita’s outdoor pool on an 11-acre site on Cherry Street, and a gym and meeting rooms.

Family Health West’s new hospital would be on the northern corner of the property, and the Mesa County Public Library District has agreed to work with the city of Fruita to build a new branch library connected to the rec center. The hospital and library would not be paid for by funds generated by the additional sales tax.

Moss said one drawback to putting the issue back on the ballot is that proponents would have to again raise about $10,000 to relaunch a campaign.

Although the issue garnered 50-percent voter turnout in April, a record for a city election, a November ballot measure may garner even more voters when coupled with a presidential ticket, Moss said.

He said everyone he has talked with who is in favor of the center didn’t vote in April because “they thought it was a sure thing.”

“Something like this is going to bring business to town,” Moss said. “It’s an investment in our community with a high rate of return. Fruita’s debt ratio is very minimal.”



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