Ontario council primed to support recreation district plan

The city of Ontario will review a letter of intent that supports a proposed independent recreation district at a Monday special meeting. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – The Ontario City Council Monday will be asked to throw its support behind a new regional recreation district, turning over key assets such as the aquatics center and skate park.

City Manager Adam Brown has proposed the council approve a letter laying out the city’s actions if the district is approved.

The Malheur County Court is going through the final steps to refer a measure to voters in November to form the district.

The council is scheduled to meet by telephone at 5:30 p.m. to review the letter of intent.

In the draft letter, the city pledges to offer the aquatics center, recreation district office, skate park, tennis courts and the proposed splash pad to the recreation district. The city plans follow the same process with the recreation district structures that it did with the Ontario Library District in 2009.

The letter also guarantees the city will help the recreation district cover its costs with a low-interest loan while the new government waits to collect property taxes. That would happen in July 2019.

 “My intention is to approve the letter,” said Ron Verini, Ontario mayor.

The independent recreation district effort was spearheaded by Ontario resident Mary Jo Evers. Evers, the finance director of the Ontario School District, decided to get involved after she learned Ontario budget woes meant elimination of the city recreation department. The city agreed to fund the recreation department, which fields a variety of sports teams for area youth, until December.

In May, Evers asked the county court to place an initiative on the November ballot to create the independent recreation district. She sought the court’s intervention because the deadline to place the measure by petition had passed.

The court agreed to help Evers but only if she could collect a minimum of 1,250 signatures on a petition. In June Evers collected 1,280 and the court agreed to place it on the ballot. However, the court is required to hold two public hearings on the matter. One hearing was held last month and the next public session is set for this Wednesday.

The proposed boundaries of the recreation district would be the same as that of the Ontario School District.

The proposed tax rate for the district is 55 centers per $1,000 of assessed value beginning in 2019.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.