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Carlisle hopes aquatic center spurs private development


When it opens at the end of May, the new aquatic center in Carlisle will look like many other swimming pool complexes that other Central Iowa cities have built or are considering. But to community leaders, the project, which has raised more than $750,000 in private contributions, is a critical step for encouraging new private development in Carlisle.

“I think the people here felt it was as much an economic development project as it was a recreational project,” said Carlisle’s city administrator, Neil Ruddy. Given the city’s anemic commercial tax base — about $20,000 in value per resident compared with the $60,000 range for booming cities such as Clive — Ruddy is hopeful that Carlisle is ready to ride a wave of commercial development.

“Things are looking like they’re turning the corner for Carlisle,” he said. “Putting our money into things like aquatic centers will encourage developers to put their money into private economic development.”

The $1.85 million project, which received contributions from each community within the Carlisle School District — Palmyra, Easter Lake, Avon, Carlisle and Hartford — will be known as the PEACH Area Family Aquatic Center.

Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, the complex consists of a 5,500-square-foot pool with zero-depth entry, six lanes, water features and water slides as well as a 2,800-square-foot bathhouse. It’s located on a 5-acre former church property at 1220 S. Fifth St., adjacent to the Summerset Trail.

The pool was designed by Burbach Aquatics of Platteville, Wis., and is being built by Ricchio Inc. of Gurnee, Ill., and Mechanical Inc. of Freeport, Ill., at a cost of $1.3 million. Construction of the bathhouse and parking area is being coordinated by Don Bartholomew of Bartholomew Construction, with a significant amount of volunteer labor and materials.

Through a capital campaign dubbed “Project Splash,” approximately $754,000 in contributions were raised for the project. Additional financing came from a $100,000 Community Attractions and Tourism grant from the state and smaller matching grants from Polk and Warren counties. In July, Carlisle residents approved a bond referendum of nearly $1 million to complete the financing of the project.

The bond issue increased property taxes in Carlisle by $1.05, to $13.97 per $1,000 of taxable value. Carlisle’s total property tax levy is currently the second highest rate in the metro area, second only to the city of Des Moines.

“But I think the feeling here is that as development occurs, the additional tax base will reduce that rate,” Ruddy said.

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