SIOUX CITY -- During a Saturday budget meeting, the Sioux City Council asked Parks and Recreation staff to look into the feasibility of building an aquatic center on the city's north side, rather than in Morningside.
City staff have planned for the eventual replacement of Leif Erikson Pool with a splash pad and the construction of a proposed regional aquatic center in Morningside east of IBP Ice Center, which would replace Lewis Pool. A $8.5 million request for the project in the 2025-26 fiscal year is part of the five-year capital improvements budget the council began reviewing Saturday morning.
Mayor Bob Scott said building the aquatic center in Morningside, which also has Cone Park, sends a message that the rest of the community isn't as important. He suggested staff consider the vicinity of Northern Valley Crossing, a prime site for retail and commercial development on the southeast corner of Floyd Boulevard.
"Why would you not put that aquatic center right on the bypass and spread these amenities around our community? It makes absolutely no sense to me," he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore said the aquatic center needs to be located on a bus route. After Scott noted that would not be the case at the proposed Morningside site, Councilwoman Julie Schoenherr asked if the city could change the route, so that a bus would stop at the proposed Morningside location.
"It's not hard at all," Assistant City Manager Mike Collett said of changing the route. "It just takes more buses and more drivers to split the route."
Councilman Alex Watters agreed staff should consider the north side, but he said the city's master plan calls for a "campus" with "multiple amenities in one area," which the proposed Morningside location would provide.
"You can go to a ballgame, then you can go to an aquatic center. It's just like Cone Park -- the whole reason you would put a snowshoeing trail there is because you have those amenities built in around it. You have the IBP Ice Center," he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said staff will study multiple locations for the aquatic center.
During the daylong hearing, the council members got their first look at projects planned in the capital improvement program, or CIP, budget, which begins July 1.
The $85.4 million proposal is an increase of more than $11.1 million from the current budget year's capital budget. Additionally, the $85.4 million is the first year of the proposed five-year CIP, which would spend $380.2 million over the fiscal years through 2025-26.
Over the combined five years, the CIP would direct $75.4 million to annual airport capital projects, $47.7 to annual infrastructure reconstruction and $20.1 million to wastewater treatment plant modifications.
The proposed CIP anticipates 56.1 percent use of the city's debt capacity at the beginning of the year. The proposed fiscal year 2022 debt issuance increases the percentage of debt capacity used to 56.9 percent. The city has been above 60 percent debt capacity over the last several years.
"We have seen increases in the road use fund. We've also seen a growth in taxable property values of about 1.45 percent, which is good," said City Finance Director Teresa Fitch. "We do not have a water rate increase for the Sioux City residents scheduled for this year."
The Sioux City Convention Center is seeking $100,000 for exterior artwork in the first budget year, which some council members said was too high of a cost.
City staff want to add an interactive or large art piece to enhance the look of the Convention Center and Fourth Street. The artwork would be located along the Convention Center's south side in the grassy area in front of the large brick wall.
Jessica Johnson, projects management specialist for the city, said she has spoken with Sioux City Art Center Director Todd Behrens about matching grants the city could apply for to help fund the project.
"That brick wall is so stark. Even if we could paint or do some artwork on it," Schoenherr suggested.
Johnson said she was hesitant about going that route, due to future upkeep. She also said hanging a piece of art on the wall could cause structural issues down the road.
"We were kind of thinking something we can put in front of that wall," said Johnson, who suggested creative lighting or sculptures. "Honestly, we're not sure what it will cost at this point. In talking to Todd, he said it's best to let the artist give you their interpretation."
Scott said he doesn't have a problem putting sculptures downtown, but he said the proposed cost was "too much money" for him. He also expressed concerns about letting an artist select the artwork.
"It grows and grows and grows," he said. "$100,000 could be $250,000 when you're done going for grants."
Johnson said it is her hope the city would not spend that much.