Opportunity is knocking.
Residents of the Lynden Regional Park and Recreation District, which has the same boundaries of the Lynden School District, have a wonderful opportunity to enhance the health, recreation and economic aspects of our community. The Nov. 6 general election ballot will include a proposed 30-year, $9.5-million bond issue to fund construction of an indoor recreation facility and swimming pool that upon agreement would be operated and maintained by the Whatcom Family YMCA.
The Lynden community then can continue to offer group swimming lessons, senior fitness classes, weightlifting equipment and drop-in activities, plus teach youngsters the basic skills of sports and citizenship. The facility also will include a regulation-sized basketball court, a climbing wall and racquetball/squash court.
It won't be a "Taj Mahal" of fitness facilities. The YMCA's focus is on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, not on competing with local businesses that offer extra amenities for their members. But for-profit enterprises cannot feasibly offer a number of items, including a competitive lap pool, scholarships for membership, free or low-cost daycare and heavily discounted swimming classes for large non-member groups and school programs.
Everyone, regardless of age, income or background, can benefit from the YMCA - and many do. More than 4,000 different individuals used the Lynden YMCA facility or participated in one of its programs in 2011, including nearly 600 youths who took swim lessons or were in a YMCA pool program. Also, more than 60 boys and girls participated in the last year on high school swim teams that use the pool. Without a local pool, these teams almost certainly would be disbanded.
The current city-owned building used by the Lynden YMCA is badly deteriorating. Its lifespan without an estimated $1 million-plus in city funds may be anywhere from several months to several years. The swimming pool was built as an outdoor facility in 1961; the building covering the pool was added in 1978. Since 1978, Lynden's population has tripled. Maintenance and repair costs have steadily risen. Important systems and equipment need to be replaced. Safety issues are a constant challenge.
As reflected in past city budgets, it is difficult to accomplish all the needs of the current facility with available funding sources.
A number of other sites have been considered over the years, including Bender Fields, the current site at Drayton Street, the former Cost Cutter property and others. All have been analyzed, discussed and debated, but were rejected for the cost of remodeling or construction.
The most cost-effective option is renovation of the former Delft Square, damaged by fire in 2008. Passage of the bond issue will replace an eyesore in the middle of downtown Lynden with an attractive facility that will draw hundreds of people each week.
The Downtown Business Association supports this proposal. While recognizing there may be some parking challenges, business owners want more people to come downtown. Also, peak times for the Lynden YMCA (5:30-9 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. weekdays) are different from those of downtown merchants and the Lynden Community Center.
Residents will benefit from today's low interest rates. The proposed bond issue's tax rate is estimated at 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The owner of a $250,000 home would currently pay $70 per year. The Lynden Regional Park and Recreation District would lease the building to the Whatcom Family YMCA, which would be responsible for maintenance costs now paid by the City of Lynden.
Homeowners who are at least 61 years old or unable to work due to a disability may be eligible for a property tax exemption if their annual household disposable income doesn't exceed $35,000. For information, call the Whatcom County Assessor's Office at 360-676-6790.
For many in the Lynden area, our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents funded construction of the swimming pool and the current YMCA facility, providing affordable fitness and recreational opportunities for generations of youth and adults. As this facility's useful lifespan ends, it's time for this generation to step up and support a proposal that will benefit this community for decades to come, just as past generations have done.
It's time to answer the door and welcome this opportunity with your vote Nov. 6.
Dave Brumbaugh leads the Committee for a New Lynden YMCA.