Education

Meridian voters will decide new libraries, pools to augment The Hill complex

Making the case for more Meridian libraries

Meridian Library District Director Gretchen Caserotti says the current facilities are operating at capacity.
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Meridian Library District Director Gretchen Caserotti says the current facilities are operating at capacity.

Two key components to an innovative complex for recreation, education and health in South Meridian go before voters Nov. 8 in a move that could substantially raise homeowners’ property taxes.

Meridian Library District and the West Ada Recreation District are seeking separate construction bonds totaling $32 million for two libraries and two swimming pools. One pool and one library would be part of the campus near Amity and Eagle roads that already includes Hillsdale Elementary School and will house a city park and a Treasure Valley Family YMCA next fall.

The other pool and library could be located north of Interstate 84, likely at Black Cat Road and Chinden Boulevard.

Both bonds — the library district’s $12 million, the recreation district’s $20 million — come to Meridian voters as College of Western Idaho asks voters in its two-county district to approve a $180 million bond for a new Boise campus and expansion of its Nampa campus. If all three bond measures pass, Meridian homeowners could see their property tax increase by $47.88 per $100,000 of taxable value.

Q. There are a lot of projects here. How’d it come about?

A. In 2014, the city of Meridian, the YMCA and West Ada School District announced a plan to create the education-recreation complex near Amity and Eagle roads. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation committed $4 million, and some of the land was donated by Marti Hill, whose family farmed the property for more than a century.

The YMCA struggled to raise money for a pool to accompany the rest of the YMCA project, so last year it approached the Western Ada Recreation District, which already operates a pool in Meridian. Meanwhile, Meridian Library District also joined the project.

Q. What happened?

A. Last year the library and the recreation districts wanted to build facilities north of Interstate 84 as well as at the south Meridian campus. But weeks before the November 2015 election, the recreation district pulled its bond, saying the public hadn’t gotten enough information to make a decision. The Meridian Library District proceeded with its bond measure but lost, getting just 59 percent support where a two-thirds vote was required.

With the exception of construction of Hillsdale Elementary School, the South Meridian project stalled. Now there is movement: The school opened this fall, and Treasure Valley YMCA announced last week it will break ground on the new $18.5 million YMCA in late October, with completion expected in fall 2017. The entire complex is now called The Hill.

One of the hopes with these aquatic centers is swimming as a sport becomes part of our community.

Orville Thompson, CEO and part owner of Scentsy

Q. Why is this joint project with multiple partners such a big deal?

A. The different entities say they will work cooperatively and share infrastructure, such as roads and parking lots, all of which should make for a more efficient operation. While there will be cooperation — the pool, for example, would be built by the recreation district but operated by the YMCA at no taxpayer expense — each entity is paying for its own facility construction. The library will operate independently of the YMCA and the school, although they will be housed next to each other.

More Meridian pools could foster competitive swimming in the city, says Scentsy CEO Orville Thompson

Q. What is the library’s plan?

A. Meridian Library wants a full-scale, full-service public library at The Hill and in North Meridian. Meridian Library District now operates a library on Cherry Lane and a small, 4,500-square-foot library in commercial space leased for $103,000 a year on Overland Road south of the Interstate 84 near Eagle Road.

Both libraries are at capacity, said Gretchen Caserotti, library director.

The Library also operates unBound, a tech library in downtown Meridian.

The new library at The Hill would be about 20,000 square feet. “It would be an amazing, modern, state-of-the-art library ... with program rooms, with technology labs and spaces and seating for different types of uses,” Caserotti said.

Meridian needs more libraries both to increase our ability to deliver services ... as well as increase the convenience of access for our citizens as Meridian continues to be developed.

Gretchen Caserotti, Meridian Library District director

Meridian’s south library would connect with Hillsdale Elementary School to provide library services. Credentialed librarians would work with teachers and students to provide information for research and reports. Students could check out library materials, such as books or American Girl dolls that might be the inspiration for writing and journaling.

Vote Yes Meridian Library is a private group supporting the bond. It has raised about $2,500 for the pro-bond campaign.

Q. What’s the cost of the library bond?

A. The $12 million bond for two libraries would be $11.05 per $100,000 of a homeowner’s taxable property value over 20 years. It must pass by a two-thirds vote. The district boundaries roughly follow the city limits.

Q. What is the plan for the pools?

A. One pool would be constructed at The Hill, another on land donated by Orville Thompson, CEO and part owner of Scentsy. Preliminary plans call for both a lane pool and a recreational pool at both sites. Western Ada Recreation District would pay for construction for both pools with the bond. But the YMCA would take over their operation, which would mean no taxpayer expense to run the pools. The plan is similar to the West YMCA near the HP campus, where the city of Boise built the pool and the YMCA operates it.

The recreation district’s existing pool near downtown Meridian is at capacity, said Aaron Elton, a member of Friends for Meridian’s Future, which is working for passage of the bond. The Friends groups has raised $100,000 to do mailings and push for the bond.

Q. What is the cost of the pool bond?

A. The $20 million bond would cost taxpayers $14.52 per $100,000 of taxable value property over 20 years. It must pass by a two-thirds vote. The district boundaries are essentially the city limits.

Q. Are taxpayers paying for the land where these projects will be built?

A. Land at The Hill for the library, pool, park and YMCA was donated by the Hill family; the Hillsdale school property was donated by Brighton Corp. Thompson said he would donate a portion of 60 acres he owns at Black Cat Road and Chinden Boulevard for an indoor aquatic center, a library and a future YMCA.

His commitment, however, is based on passage of the pool bond, which would make the pool a hub of that complex. “If the (pool bond) doesn’t pass, then the hub of the wheel disappears and so the spokes don’t really have any place to connect,” Thompson told the Statesman.

Cast your ballot

Absentee ballots: Download an application for an absentee ballot at IdahoVotes.gov. It must be received by your county clerk by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. Mail the ballot so the clerk receives it by 8 p.m. Election Day.

Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 8. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where to vote: Look up where you vote via IdahoVotes.gov or on the Ada or Canyon county election websites.

Call for help: Ada County elections (287-6860)

Early voting

Ada County: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 except the Ada County elections office, which opens at 7 a.m.) Polls close at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Sites: Ada County elections office, 400 N. Benjamin Lane, Boise; Boise City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd.; Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave.; Eagle Senior Center, 312 E. State St., Eagle.

On Saturday, Oct. 29: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Ada County elections office.

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