Our Voice: Good to see regional task force moving along

To visitors, the Tri-Cities’ name implies one cooperative metropolitan area. Yet historically, the three main cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland have not always been the best of partners.

That’s why we are glad to see a renewed energy by members of the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District. The group has been somewhat quiet since the failure of last year’s aquatics center proposal, but now it is moving again and reaching out to the public. Its plan now is to recruit community members to help determine a vision for the region over the next 20 years.

Task force members are hoping to develop a project road map, which is an exciting idea. With continued support these plans could pave the way for some exciting future amenities that bring all three cities and outlying towns closer together.

The public facilities task force formed in 2010 to go after regional projects no one city could afford alone. It consists of nine members from the city councils and public facilities districts in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick and its mission is to look at the big picture for the region and foster collaboration among all three cities. Task force members also help figure out funding sources for special projects and educate the community about them.

Planning is key if the Tri-Cities is going to attain some of the larger facilities it now lacks. Task force members say they want to focus on four projects that have been on the wish list for years – an aquatics center, a performing arts center, and expansion of the Reach center in Richland and the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. Task force members are open to other ideas as well, but these four have been the most popular.

The recent push to get the community involved in developing Vista Field certainly provides additional opportunities, as well. The potential is there, we just need the people to make something amazing happen.

Don Britain, a Kennewick city councilman and the regional board’s president, said a criticism of the task force in the past is that it did not reach out enough to the community. This effort to have a subcommittee gather community input to help the task force with its goals is an attempt to address that perception and create more involvement in the process.

Perhaps it wasn’t parochialism that caused the rejection of the aquatics center proposal a year ago, but it appeared that way. The task force had put a tax proposal on the ballot last year that asked for one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick for the regional water park. It won approval in Pasco, where the aquatics center was to be located, but voters in Richland and Kennewick rejected it and the measure failed.

Somehow Tri-Citians need to get past supporting projects that end up only within their own city limits. The regional task force has the potential to help with that and it’s good it is up and running again. We need a group looking at the region as a whole, and not separate communities.