With a decade-old swimming facility on its last breath and a tight budget, Broken Bow officials are looking for another revenue option to offset the costs for the pool: keno.
Broken Bow's residents will decide on December 8th, 2009 on whether to permit keno as part of an effort to pay for operation expenses on its current swimming pool and permit the city a bit more room in trying to construct a new one.
City Administrator Tony Tolstedt, who started work in May 2009, said that he took the idea of keno as well as imposing tax on telecommunications that has already been approved, to the Broken Bow city council last summer. The keno funds were not initially allocated to any specific part of Broken Bow's budget.
Scott Spanel, a city councilman who has been closely involved with the situation, said that after realizing that the residents might understand the need for the keno funds if explained to them properly, the city council said that it would allocate the keno funds toward the swimming pool's operation expenses.
Both issues-the game of keno and the swimming pool-had been the talk around the city for quite some time. The city spent about $250,000 in 2005 to repair the west wall of the swimming pool and it has had to make several fives to the swimming pool since then.
Spanel said that the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which is now in its 36th year, is about half a decade past its intended lifespan. It has required repairs for cracks and new heating system over the past years.
Joe Shea, the chairman of the city's parks board, said that it has been a hotly contested issue. Last week, the board found out from Broken Bow's engineers that because of the changes in the federal filtration regulations for flow rates, the swimming pool will be out of compliance next year and could be shut down.
The engineers are looking for different options to keep the swimming pool open but that development only increases the degree of urgency of constructing a new swimming pool. Shea said that it is possible that the swimming pool could just be repaired but that is just postponing the inevitable. Shea added that a new swimming pool could also be a more family-friendly pool.
A brand new swimming pool project would be big enough that it would be required to be bonded and will require a public vote. Spanel and Tolstedt said that they expect a bond issue to be put to a referendum next year.
Tolstedt said that the keno money would be allocated toward paying the $93,000 per year the city spends on managing the pool, freeing up Broken Bow money usually allocated there.
City officials are not sure how much revenue the game of keno would generate. Spanel said that Broken Bow has been using a loose projection of about $40,000 a year in city revenue though it will depend on how many businesses implement it and how often it is utilized.
Steve Schatz, a policy analyst for the state Department of Revenue's Charitable Gaming Division said that local governments receives what is left of keno earnings after prizes (at least sixty-five percent), expenses (at most fourteen percent) and state taxes (two percent) are taken out.