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A second vote on Rec Center would be at least a year away

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A referendum that tied certain debt financing to the Carroll Recreation Center for modernization of any sort — a rerun of last week’s failed vote on a $13.38 million project or a scaled-down plan — could not take place until September 2021 at the earliest, and more likely would come on the November 2021 general city election ballot, city officials say.

City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver said the city has an advisory from its bond advisors saying another Rec Center vote is not legally allowable in March of 2021, as the spring date falls just days short of the six-month window required by Iowa law for repeat referendums for the same project. The next-available date would be the day after Labor Day in September of 2021, but Pogge-Weaver and others say it would make financial sense to just wait two more months and include the Rec Center on the November 2021 ballot with candidates for council and mayor.

But what shape any second Rec Center referendum would take remains unknown.

“The council needs to visit the topic and set out the next steps for the project,” Pogge-Weaver said.

Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann, saying the pandemic doesn’t provide a true picture for community demand for a project that could last for 50 years, wants to see a post-COVID-19 vote on the same plan, one that garnered only 45 percent at the polls. Sixty percent is needed for passage of such referendums.

A modernized Rec Center, under the plan that failed Sept. 8, would have featured an expanded gymnasium with an indoor elevated walking track, the most-requested addition in the building for years in local surveys, and an expansion of the pool and revamping of locker rooms and other elements.

Councilman Mike Kots opposed the plan, saying he wants to see more modest improvements at the Rec Center.

And other views are likely to emerge publicly as the council and staff hold an annual strategic planning session Oct. 15, in which the Rec Center will be a high priority topic. That session will be held at City Hall from 4 to 8:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

“That’s when the council will make some decisions,” Pogge-Weaver said.

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