Although attendance was minimal at last week's hearing on the Columbia Association's draft fiscal year 2015 and 2016 budgets, passion was strong among those at the session at the Slayton House in Wilde Lake.
The CA is reviewing capital budget proposals totaling $12.6 million for 2015 and $9.9 million for 2016.
Throughout 3-1/2 hours of testimony on Jan. 16, people testified on behalf of two particular capital projects: a new indoor tennis facility at the SportsPark and the conversion of an existing CA outdoor pool into an indoor pool.
Neither the pool nor the tennis facility, which are scheduled to receive preliminary funding in the fiscal year 2016 capital budget, are new projects to the CA Board of Directors. People from both sides have presented their cases on multiple occasions throughout 2013.
While the projects differ in scope and size, the message at last week's hearing was the same: CA should continue to support construction of the facilities.
Leo Bruette, who serves on the Columbia tennis committee, stressed the need for the indoor tennis facility and asked the board to move up funding by a year. The facility, which will be behind the SportsPark in Harper's Choice, was originally scheduled to open in 2015 and is expected to cost $3.5 million.
"In the budget we have engineering and permitting for FY16 and construction for FY17. Last year at this time, both of those were a year earlier. Essentially, we would like to speak up to have that original timing put back in place," Bruette said.
"We've got 4,100 league participants playing in and around Columbia. We've have had year-over-year increases in the number of participants for the last three, four, five years straight. We do anticipate those numbers are going to increase," he said.
Bruette added that he has heard plans are in the works to build as many as 12 indoor courts in Ellicott City, and that he wants CA to "stay ahead of the wave and get there first."
Theresa Emig, of Owen Brown, said she supported the board's commitment of $400,000 total in FY 2015 and FY 2016 capital budgets for indoor pool engineering.
"I go to a lot of facilities in Maryland and I see what other teams have, and I see what we do not have," said Emig, a USA swimming referee.
The original idea to enclose one of CA's existing 23 pools was proposed by an outside consultant as part of CA's Aquatics Master Plan. Locust Park pool in Long Reach was identified by the consultants as the best option. Other options, however, including Dasher Green in Owen Brown, were put forth.
At the meeting last week, village board members from Owen Brown and Long Reach said they support enclosing a pool in their villages.
CA has proposed spending $12.6 million in 2015 and $9.9 million in 2016. Approximately a third, or $4 million, of the 2015 capital budget will go toward CA's new wellness retreat on Lake Kittamaqundi. The retreat, dubbed Haven on the Lake, is expected to open in September in the former Rouse Company building.
According to the budget, $1.4 million of the $4 million fronted by CA is to be reimbursed to CA by landlord Howard Hughes Corp.
On the operating side, the board is proposing a general fund budget in 2015 of $63.6 million, which is approximately $2.7 million less than its expected income of $66.4 million.
Of the $63 million allocated to operating expense, approximately $28.3 million will go toward sports and fitness programs. The second-highest allocation is $13.9 million, which is slated to be for community building and open space.
In 2016, the CA spending is expected to increase to $65.9 million with income increasing to $68.6 million.