Fairview Heights leaders deserve credit for vision and for paying attention to quality of life issues. The plan to build a $17-million recreation complex is intriguing, but carries risk.
The idea scores high for community service. City leaders are trying to create a heart for their community, with City Hall, police, fire, the library and now this recplex all gathered on Bunkum Road.
The proposed complex is at Bunkum and Interstate 64, on the former site of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic church and school. A family- and senior-friendly aquatic center, climbing wall, gyms, workout center, sports fields, walking trail, indoor track, public meeting rooms and commons area are included.
Mayor Mark Kupsky said residents had three questions: location, cost and affordability. The first two are answered, but the third question is a little cloudier.
The construction costs are coming from the city’s food and beverage tax, which generates about $1.5 million a year. Bond costs for 30-year municipal bonds at roughly 2.7-percent interest will be about $830,000 a year. Then Kupsky said operating costs are estimated at $1.3 million a year.
He said the city expects to subsidize the operating costs the first few years, but then membership fees are expected to cover most of the operating costs.
If projections are off with costs higher, membership revenue lower or food taxes falling under what is estimated, the city’s total liability of $2.13 million would require an infusion from the general fund.
There’s no gain without risk, and this is a project that will benefit quality of life in a city that sometimes traded community for commerce. Delivering a project that is the envy of others instead of a white elephant will require taxpayers and city leaders to closely watch the dollars.