BELLEVUE, Iowa — The City of Bellevue is partnering with a developer to provide residents with subsidized access to a privately owned aquatic center.
A split City Council this week committed $1 million in financial assistance to Offshore Enterprises along with annual payments to lower admission fees for city residents.
Proponents said the arrangement is a desirable alternative to replacing the city’s aging swimming pool.
“Most projects in a small town anymore are public-private partnerships, so that’s why we decided to go with them — give it a try to see how it works,” said Council Member Tim Roth, who voted with Tammy Michels and Tom Roth to support the agreement.
Council Members Jayson Heiar and Lyn Medinger opposed it.
The aquatic center, located north of town adjacent to U.S. 52 in a newly developed riverfront resort, is on track for completion this summer, possibly as early as July.
The company is pouring more than $3 million into the facility, which will include a 6,000-square-foot pool, sun deck, shower house, swimming pond and aqua park.
“We think we are bringing an exciting new outdoor recreational amenity to the community,” said Steve Launspach, Offshore Enterprises treasurer. “This is going to be a great, great collaboration, both for the city residents and in order to bring in tourists.”
But Heiar believes the aquatic center’s location poses a hazard for children who travel there by way of a bike path adjacent to the highway.
“I’d rather just keep our pool where it is,” he said. “There is no dollar amount you can put on a life.”
The city has agreed to pay Offshore Enterprises $30,000 annually in exchange for discounted admissions rates for Bellevue residents. The parties will meet each year to determine prices for daily and season passes.
Launspach told the council this week that he supports offering day passes to residents at a cost of no more than $4 for youths and $6 for adults but later told the Telegraph Herald those figures were estimates.
If the parties are unable to reach a consensus on an admissions fee, they can terminate the agreement, but the city cannot do so if the rate offered to residents is less than 50% than that charged to nonresidents.
The city also will provide annual tax increment and lodging tax payments for 20 years following the construction of the aquatic center. Payments would total no more than $1 million.
Offshore Enterprises purchased the Baymont Inn & Suites, Offshore Bar & Grill and Offshore Event Center on about 42 acres in December for $11.6 million, according to property records.
The complex marks the latest investment in riverside recreation for several of the company’s partners, who had a hand in the 2018 opening of Coconut Cove, a resort in southwest Wisconsin. They also spearheaded development at the Whitetail Bluff Campground in Cassville and Dubuque Marina & Yardarm.
Launspach said that without support from the Bellevue City Council and the mutual understanding that the aquatic center will become the de facto municipal pool, plans for the new facility would have been scaled back.
This summer, the city intends to open the municipal swimming pool for part of the season, which typically starts by June. After the Offshore Enterprises center opens, city lifeguards and pool managers will become company employees.
The council intends to assess plans for the municipal swimming pool after the season ends. The current vessel was constructed in 1965 and lacks modern amenities such as a zero-depth entry.
“It’s probably one of the oldest pools in the state,” City Administrator Abbey Skrivseth said.
In the 2000s, city residents twice rejected bond measures that would have enabled the city to borrow $1 million to pay for a portion of the project.
Pool construction costs have increased significantly in the years since. The city could expect to pay at least $3 million to $4 million based upon similar projects undertaken in surrounding communities, Skrivseth said.
Add to that price tag taxpayer fatigue concerning a bond referendum that was recently approved to finance the construction of a new Jackson County Jail, and the likelihood residents would open their pocketbooks for a new pool diminishes, she said.
“The city has been looking for the last 25 years on what to do with the pool,” Skrivseth said. “There has never been a good solution given the large expense.”