Controversial Fruita Rec Center Issue Could End Up on November Ballot

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Monday night, the Fruita Chamber of Commerce hosted a public forum to give residents a chance to hear from both sides of a controversial proposal that would increase the city sales tax to pay for a new Fruita Rec Center.

That measure failed to pass during the April municipal elections because of a tie vote of the people. The Fruita City Council and Fruita Chamber of Commerce say that's exactly why they wanted to revisit the issue, to get input on whether those results merit a second vote come November.

"We're really looking hard," said Fruita City Councilman Terry Moss. "We're having multiple community meetings and we're asking everyone to come out and participate. We want to find out, is this the right thing to do, to put this back on the ballot?"

During Monday night's meeting, supporters of the Rec Center argued that is exactly what needs to happen.

"We think that this simply merits another vote," said Dave Karisny, a supporter of the Rec Center.

Supporters argue that the project would be more than just a gym. It would serve as a community center that all Fruita residents could enjoy. They say it's an investment in the community that would attract new business and bring more economic prosperity to the area. Finally, they say a one cent on the dollar sales tax increase is not too much to ask for a state of the art facility Fruita residents could call their own.

"This is a powerful thing to have in a community," said Karisny. "It's something that is desirable and this community has expressed an interest in it."

But others feel differently. Several residents say they're not against building a rec center, but feel city leaders need to find a different way to pay for it.

Opponents of the proposal say city dollars should not be used to compete with existing businesses, and that a tax increase would be better served to help pay for roads, schools, and other things a growing community needs.

"Wait until we have a lucrative business to put a rec center in the City of Fruita," said Robert Richardson, an opponent of the proposal. "Contact a private business where tax dollars aren't necessary."

They add that a tie vote means the issue did not pass in April, and say supporters of the rec center need to accept those results.

"No, I don't think it should be on the ballot," said Richardson. "The people of Fruita have spoken."

For the issue to get back on the ballot, city leaders say supporters must do one of two things. They can collect signatures and petition the issue onto the November ballot, or they can bring the issue before City Council who can then vote to add it onto the ballot.

City leaders say they expect the second case to happen, but say they'll have to consider things like the upcoming school bond issue before making any decisions. They say they plan on holding additional meetings on the issue before making their final decision during their meeting on July 15.

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