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Editorials

Last week's Powell Aquatic Center opening was, for many community members, a much-anticipated event.

The center will offer fitness and recreation opportunities for swimmers young and old — and the facility replaces the dilapidated (and soon to be demolished) natatorium as the venue for school and club swim team practices and competitions, as well as recreation district lessons.

All positive things for a community — but a dark cloud looms on the horizon.

Revenue for the aquatic center is estimated at $217,475 for the first year, while operating costs could top $700,000.

City officials say the overage collected on the capital facilities tax that funded pool construction will keep the facility afloat for this year — but a projected $500,000 budget shortfall in subsequent years is a serious problem.

The $2 million operations and maintenance endowment put in the bank by the cap tax won't generate the revenue necessary to run the facility — especially with recent interest rates at dismally low levels.

It's time for city officials, councilmen, community members and other organizations to engage in some serious planning for the future operation and maintenance of the pool.

When taxpayers, in 2006, passed the capital facilities tax to pay for a new pool in Powell, they became stakeholders in the center's success. Usage drives revenue — taxpayers now need to support the facility they wanted by using the pool and buying memberships.

The city, too, must promote traffic at the aquatic center by marketing the facility — both to community members and to neighboring towns. Membership incentives, such as the charter memberships offered by the Cody Rec Center when it opened, may be necessary.

The school district and the recreation department also need to pay their fair share for use of the aquatic center.

Without the new pool, a generation of Powell kids could have been deprived of both recreational and competitive swimming opportunities.

Finally, the City Council, which has been a strong proponent of the facility since long before the ground-breaking, must think aggressively and creatively about ways to make the center fiscally solvent.

While the tax overage has, in effect, bought a year-long reprieve — and has given city officials and pool employees a year of data-gathering, it's time to begin serious planning to make sure the aquatic center remains a plus for the community well into the future.

Failure to do so will put city coffers in serious jeopardy.

In the months since Congress approved hotly-contested health care reform legislation, Wyomingites have grappled with how to respond to the federal law.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal has said Wyoming would not join other states in a lawsuit opposing the law. But gubernatorial candidates have said they believe the Cowboy State should challenge President Obama's health care reform.

Three GOP candidates represented at a rally at the state Capitol Friday said they think Wyoming should oppose the federal law by joining 20 other states in litigation.

The rally's organizer, M. Lee Hasenauer of Cheyenne, is petitioning to urge state lawmakers to hold a special legislative session this summer to address federal health-care reform.

But a special session is unnecessary, considering Wyoming lawmakers have plenty of time to respond to the new health care reform. It will be years before most provisions in the new law take effect.

Gathering legislators for a special session is expensive — a 20-day session would cost an estimated $500,000. If lawmakers then proceeded with litigation, state taxpayers would foot the bill.

Whether Wyoming spends its money on legal battles isn't going to change how the Supreme Court's decision impacts the state. Any Supreme Court ruling on the health-care lawsuit will affect all states — regardless of their role in the suit.

“I think Congress is wrong, but what I think doesn't matter. The people who matter are the nine people on the United States Supreme Court. I think it'll get litigated vigorously. I do not think we add to it,” Freudenthal said in March.

Wyoming's next governor likely will disagree. And when state legislators convene for their regular session in January, they may decide to seek legal action against the federal health-care reform.

Though Cowboy State lawmakers could still join the multi-state lawsuit, it seems like an unnecessary move and a waste of money when the litigation's outcome will affect Wyoming anyway.

In the months since Congress approved hotly-contested health care reform legislation, Wyomingites have grappled with how to respond to the federal law.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal has said Wyoming would not join other states in a lawsuit opposing the law. But gubernatorial candidates have said they believe the Cowboy State should challenge President Obama's health care reform.

Three GOP candidates represented at a rally at the state Capitol Friday said they think Wyoming should oppose the federal law by joining 20 other states in litigation.

The rally's organizer, M. Lee Hasenauer of Cheyenne, is petitioning to urge state lawmakers to hold a special legislative session this summer to address federal health-care reform.

But a special session is unnecessary, considering Wyoming lawmakers have plenty of time to respond to the new health care reform. It will be years before most provisions in the new law take effect.

Gathering legislators for a special session is expensive — a 20-day session would cost an estimated $500,000. If lawmakers then proceeded with litigation, state taxpayers would foot the bill.

Whether Wyoming spends its money on legal battles isn't going to change how the Supreme Court's decision impacts the state. Any Supreme Court ruling on the health-care lawsuit will affect all states — regardless of their role in the suit.

“I think Congress is wrong, but what I think doesn't matter. The people who matter are the nine people on the United States Supreme Court. I think it'll get litigated vigorously. I do not think we add to it,” Freudenthal said in March.

Wyoming's next governor likely will disagree. And when state legislators convene for their regular session in January, they may decide to seek legal action against the federal health-care reform.

Though Cowboy State lawmakers could still join the multi-state lawsuit, it seems like an unnecessary move and a waste of money when the litigation's outcome will affect Wyoming anyway.

Monday's open house at the new Powell Aquatic Center marked the culmination of years of dreaming and planning on the part of city officials, community members and other local organizations.

The aquatic center — with its continuous river and competition and leisure pools — will offer recreation opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and interests. Competitive swimming, lessons for youngsters, injury rehabilitation and general fitness are just a few of the possibilities the aquatic center brings to the community.

While the bulk of the pool construction — as well as a significant operations endowment — was funded by a county-wide capital facilities tax, ongoing support is necessary. Yearly memberships are available for individuals and families, and membership fees will help the facility remain solvent.

Quality recreation facilities are attractive features for people, young and old, looking to relocate to a community. They also go a long way toward keeping families here.

Though the pool has stirred up controversy and has been met with conflicting views, its opening signifies a new beginning.

The new aquatic center will be a positive for this community for years to come.

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