Gaithersburg to contribute to Gaithersburg Aquatic Center funding -- Gazette.Net



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The Gaithersburg mayor and city council have decided to help fund repairs to the Gaithersburg Aquatic Center, housed in Gaithersburg Middle School.

Structural repairs need to be made to the facility, which has been closed for several months. Montgomery County Public Schools is responsible for maintaining the building structure, while the City of Gaithersburg maintains the pool, Gaithersburg Director of Public Works Jim Arnoult said at a council meeting Monday night.

MCPS has estimated the cost of repairs to be $600,000, but since they do not have sufficient funds, they have requested that the city pitch in half, or $300,000, Arnoult said.

Council members discussed the pros and cons of the action before they voted.

“It’s a tough precedent for us to contribute to what MCPS should be taking care of,” council member Jud Ashman said at a mayor and city council meeting Monday night. City manager Tony Tomasello agreed, saying it would be “a difficult precedent” to set if the city were to pay 50 percent.

In addition, “county participation is not yet guaranteed,” Tomasello said, since the Montgomery County government would still have to review the expenses.

Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz disagreed with Ashman and Tomasello, saying it would not be the first time the city had pitched in for a MCPS project. Local residents also used the pool when it was open after school hours, he said.

“It’s something that we need to have done,” Katz said. “We couldn’t build a pool for that money.”

Council member Henry Marraffa said they should at least be willing to negotiate with MCPS. City staff recommended that the mayor and council participate in the costs, Arnoult said.

The mayor and city council voted unanimously to authorize the contribution of $300,000 to the Gaithersburg Aquatic Center project.

Council hears funding proposal for Watkins Mill Interchange

An estimate of the budget for the Watkins Mill Interchange brings the total cost of the project to $161 million. The interchange would link two unfinished portions of Watkins Mill Road over Interstate 270.

Municap Inc., a finance consulting company, presented a preliminary option to the mayor and city council that would help with funding. The president of Municap, Keenan Rice, suggested a “tax increment finance district.”

“It’s a self-financing tool available to local governments to finance things, such as redevelopment in urban areas,” Rice said. In Gaithersburg, local infrastructure redevelopment creates additional tax revenues that fund the redevelopment project, he said.

“The idea behind tax increment funding is that it funds itself,” Rice said.

Proceeding with Municap’s recommendation would give the planning staff more certainty about the Watkins Mill Interchange project’s future, said Lauren Pruss, Gaithersburg Planning Director.

“We don’t know, year to year, how the state’s funding priorities are going to change,” Pruss said. The project, still in planning stages, will move forward, she said.

scarignan@gazette.net