CAMAS — Camas Mayor Shannon Turk opened Thursday’s State of the Community address by jokingly asking the crowd to tell former Mayor Scott Higgins that she drew a bigger crowd in her first community address than he ever did.
Of course, she knew a bulk of the 110-plus people at Lacamas Lake Lodge came out to hear more about the proposed community aquatic center, which is the subject of a $78 million city bond vote in November. During the joint address — which also featured updates from Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp and Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell — it was the only topic that drew any noticeable negative reaction.
When Turk was discussing the project, a man in the back of the room started to yell something out about the price of the project, which has been estimated to cost $72 million for a 78,000-square-foot facility with a recreation pool and competition pool, a gym and community rooms. He was swiftly shut down by Doug Quinn, president of the Camas school board, who was moderating the event.
A few minutes later, Turk was answering a question about what she’d say to opponents of the project. She asked them to trust her. The same man blurted out, “No,” and shortly after left the meeting.
“It wasn’t unexpected,” Turk said after the event. “I can respect the passion. I just have it the other way.”
Outside of the minor outbursts, the rest of the event went swimmingly. After all three community leaders spoke, there was a question-and-answer session. Plenty of questions were about the aquatic center. One person asked if the cost of the center might put any city-run programs at financial risk. Turk said it wouldn’t, since the bond is being run to pay for construction of the facility.
“We will make sure our current existing services are not jeopardized,” she said.
She also assured guests that Camas residents will receive a discount on membership prices for the facility, should the bond pass, as it will be built on their tax dollars.
Turk also focused part of her speech on infrastructure improvements, including the long-anticipated work on Northwest Brady Road, which started this month. She also mentioned a new 2 million gallon reservoir near Northwest 18th Avenue and Tidland Street.
“This is not a sexy project, but it’s very important for our community,” she said.
Port and school updates
Ripp spoke to the crowd about the port’s waterfront development project. This week, the port presented three concepts for developing roughly 26.5 acres the port owns east of Waterfront Park. The goal is not to choose one, Ripp said, but take bits and pieces from each that work to come up with a plan for the area.
A few other port projects have received praise recently, Ripp said. One is a natural play area near the waterfront, featuring a 9-foot tall Sasquatch statue for climbing, which opened in June.
“This is the crown jewel of our waterfront trail and park,” he said.
The other project has been a bit more contentious: the “infamous roundabouts at (Highway) 14,” as Ripp called them. While residents haven’t been happy about the roundabout additions, Ripp said businesses at the port have told him it’s easier for them to get in and out now.
“We’ve heard nothing but positive accolades from the tenants out there,” Ripp said.
During his presentation, Snell updated the crowd on progress from the district’s $120 million bond voters approved in 2016. The bond money was used for a variety of projects, including construction of Lacamas Lake Elementary School and Discovery High School, which is part of the district’s project-based learning campus. That campus also includes the new Odyssey Middle School, which was not promised to voters in the bond lead-up.
The district used $12.5 million of the bond money to purchase the former Sharp Laboratories of America building and surrounding property. The middle school opened in the former Sharp building, with Discovery being built next door.
Snell said the 2016 bond increased capacity in the district by 200 seats at the elementary school level, 360 seats at the middle school level and 600 seats at the high school level. He added that bond projects are almost done. The only projects still going on are the Lacamas Heights Elementary School repurposing, renovating Garver Theater and upgrading the fields and athletic facilities.