Council candidate debates: Fact-checking Page Aquatic Center responses

By Bob Hembree
Posted 6/26/24

The Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce City Council Candidate Debates tackled Page’s toughest issues. For the most part, candidates responded with informed answers and reasoned opinions. …

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Council candidate debates: Fact-checking Page Aquatic Center responses


The Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce City Council Candidate Debates tackled Page’s toughest issues. For the most part, candidates responded with informed answers and reasoned opinions. There were exceptions.

The final debate was held June 11. When the question of building an aquatic center in Page was asked, candidates generally agree Page needs a swimming pool; how to finance it, where to put it and how big to make it drew a variety of opinions. The following evening, June 12, Page City Council approved raising hotel and local transient lodging taxes to 5%. The tax increase at this time is to fund the construction and operation of a pool. The estimated cost to construct the pool facility is $12 to $15 million and the estimated annual operation cost is approximately $400,000. The increase takes effect Sept. 1, 2024. Getting a bond to fund the swimming pool is the next step unless plans change.

Another recent development is the Salt River Project giving the City of Page the Pera Club building on Haul Road. This is a potential location to build the swimming pool. Mayor Bill Diak expects the title transfer to be complete by the end of the month.

The movement toward building a swimming pool in Page has a lot of moving parts, starts and stops, and shifting priorities. It’s understandable if non-incumbent candidates don’t know all the considerations, like where the water pressure is sufficient or the archaeological red tape before breaking ground.

Then there’s the misinformation, something Page residents are noticing more frequently. Often it begins with a guess or a simple misunderstanding.

For example, Tina Beckwith suggested the swimming pool would cost $116 million -- off by over $100 million. A simple mistake or, as candidate Rick Yanke suggested, Beckwith said it sarcastically.

A more unusual response came from Debra Roundtree. “Levi Tappan told me that we could use Horseshoe Bend (HSB) monies for that. City Manager told me I couldn't. I've had someone else say, yes, we can use the monies for that. But I've been thinking, why don't we put the aquatic center out at Horseshoe Bend and then it can pay for it if it's out there and that's a big piece of property and then all the tourists can pay for it and we can have a really nice water park that citizens came to see the water park along with Page?”

The Chronicle reached out to former Mayor Levi Tappan and current City Manager Darren Coldwell for comment. Tappan served as mayor on the council that hired Coldwell.

“I don’t recall telling her that,” said Tappan of Roundtree’s misstatement. “But… the HSB funds can be used to offset expenses of the general fund which then can be used for swimming pools or other parts of Page’s parks system. It’s just in the accounting.”

Coldwell agreed with Tappan. “OK, there is a lot to unravel without confusing everyone. First, Debra Roundtree is completely wrong in a couple of areas. HSB is what is called an Enterprise Fund in government accounting. In a very simple definition, all funds collected from an Enterprise Fund must be used for that Enterprise Fund. Which means no, it cannot be used to build an aquatic center, the HSB funds are restricted. Mayor Tappan is correct in what we call allocation of funds. So HSB can repay the General Fund, which is the Fund that is used for the day to day operations of the city. Let me give you an example: if Human Resources time budget is used 20% by HSB, HSB can repay the General Fund that 20%. So, once those funds from HSB have been transferred to the General Fund we have more freedom with what we can do with them.

“Debra Roundtree is also wrong about ever building a facility such as an aquatic center on HSB property. [In] 2019, when City Council opened the gates to HSB, they unanimously agreed to never commercialize that property. They were originally even concerned with the selling of water, which is now the only product that is sold at HSB. The City of Page also has a working relationship with NPS (National Park Service), and I have a very tough time believing that they would support a development that would be that intrusive to property and the experience that HSB is.”