It is our job as a city council to not only provide solutions for what is needed now, but also set the groundwork and vision for what is needed in the future.
What Annandale needs, even more than a recreational facility, is young entrepreneurial businesses with well-paid employees that ultimately move and live in our community. These businesses, and the families they bring, are needed to maintain school enrollment, join our service organizations and contribute to the local economy by providing and using services. We need to continue to grow in a sensible manner both residentially and commercially.
An article published by the Center for Rural Affairs (www.cfra.org/renewrural/s/desirable-communities) states that for rural communities to thrive, they must be places that people want to live. They must have strong schools. They must have strong social capital, which means they must display a entrepreneurial bent and a devotion to working together to make their community work. They must have high speed Internet. They must have access to nature and a quality environment. And it also states that communities that create spaces for people to meet and interact and work at being friendly are more likely to attract and keep families and businesses than those that don’t. Do a Google search on “what attracts families to a community” and you will find this article along with many others that support this premise.
Annandale is at the cusp of having every tool to attract these new businesses and families. We have great geography with the lakes. We have a fabulous school system. We have new and updated city infrastructure. We are getting a top notch broadband and communications network next year. We have wonderful parks and an ever-growing trail system. We have many robust service and faith-based organizations. We have outstanding local businesses that provide basic services and entertainment.
We have everything to attract these new businesses and families except for what I believe is the final piece of the puzzle, and that is the proposed rec facility. You see, to many of these families, having general facilities to recreate and maintain a healthy lifestyle is very important. Therefore, the issue goes beyond just providing facilities for school sports.
Needed, but how to pay for it?
I believe the few naysayers of this project agree that a facility such as this is needed for the community. They don’t have a problem with the project, but they have concerns in the fact this could be one of those projects that becomes a bottomless pit of spending. I have those same concerns.
But in order to make this decade-old issue a reality, we need move forward and I believe the best way to do so is with a solid partnership. The school can’t do it alone and neither can the city, especially if it is multi-use. That is why the city and the school district have come together to provide a solution. The initial cost will be spread across the school district with the upcoming referendum. The maintenance costs will be shared evenly.
I am not a fan of raising city taxes for this project outside of what the impact will be for maintenance. Therefore, the council has directed city staff to research opportunities to complete some of the needed phases (i.e. concession stand and surrounding trail) with the requirement of not raising taxes. I believe these phases can be done with a combination of grants and private donations.
For those of you that may not be a fan of high school sports, or a recreational lifestyle – and even if you don’t care about the other benefits this facility will provide – you should care about the long-term benefits of what this facility will attract to our community.