This is twofold – a creation of a park district for Belgrade and surrounding area and proposal of one of there community centers in our area – this one in Belgrade.
Belgrade, county voters to decide on park district, aquatic center
by Alex Miller Chronicle Staff Writer Apr 26, 2023
Voters in Belgrade and portions of Gallatin County will decide whether the growing city will be home to an aquatics center and parks district in the upcoming election.
Residents in the proposed district and the city of Belgrade are pushing for the creation of a park, trail and recreation district that would ultimately become the home of a roughly 75,000 square-foot aquatic center. Both will require taxpayer funding.
The Gallatin County Commission previously approved the pair of ballot questions earlier this year, and voters will weigh in during the May 2 school and special district election.
Building an aquatic center requires that voters approve the park district, and approve paying for up to $49 million in general obligation bonds that would fund construction of the indoor pool.The proposed park district mirrors Belgrade High School District No. 44, which includes Belgrade and swaths of land in Gallatin County. That district has between 30,000 and 40,000 people.
Proponents of the ballot measures believe that the park district and pool are investments in Belgrade’s future that would bolster continued growth in the city. Continued growth is also a factor in how much taxpayers in the city and county could pay.Early estimates show that taxpayers will pay $70.39 per $100,000 of assessed market value of their property for the bonds to pay for the aquatic center. Taxpayers would also be responsible for operations and maintenance costs of the park district.
That amounts to $1.5 million in the first year of the park district, and about $27 per $100,000 of assessed market value of a person’s property.
The proposed district would be governed by an interlocal agreement between Gallatin County and the City of Belgrade, and would include board members from both governing bodies.Neil Cardwell, Belgrade city manager, said that the individual tax burden of the bonds and operations costs of the district could be lowered as Belgrade continues to grow. However, hedging bets on growth to defray costs down the line has been a concern echoed by voters in the district.
Cardwell understood the fear of a possible stall in growth, but said that growth in the city is not likely to slow down. Belgrade has a year-over-year growth of about 7%, and is one of the fastest growing cities in the state, Cardwell said.
He added that the number of approved developments and permits in Belgrade have set the city on a course to be larger than Helena.“For the city our concern is, if we don’t do it now it’s just going to cost more later and we might run out of opportunity and space to do this,” Cardwell said.
Jessi McCloud has led a group called “Friends of the Belgrade Aquatic Center” to engage with voters on the ballot measures.She recognized that the burden on taxpayers would be a big ask, but not a careless one. McCloud said that a big reason to push for the pool and park district was to bolster Belgrade’s economy.“What do you want to invest in Belgrade,” McCloud said. “If we do something like this we’ll have something to actually bring people to Belgrade to visit.”
McCloud said that many groups have reached out about the possible uses of the proposed aquatic center, including people training for biathlons, triathlons and marathons, groups wanting to use the pool for SCUBA certification, and a group that wanted to use the proposed pool for underwater hockey.
All of the outside groups, and residents of the proposed district, are contributing to what the aquatic center’s design and function could be, she said.Before the aquatic center can be built, it first needs land to sit on.Cardwell said the city still focused on a roughly 80 acre plot owned by the Montana Department of Natural Resources at the intersection of Penwell Bridge Road and Dry Creek Road.The land was previously appraised at $65,000 an acre. However, that appraisal will expire in May. Cardwell said that a new appraisal is in the works, and hoped that the per acre cost would stay the same.
If a deal is struck on the land, it would fall under a permanent easement, meaning there would be no annual fee for the city to use the land, Cardwell said.