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Referendum Frequently Asked Questions

Expanding Community. Supporting Family.
Building Fun.

Carroll Recreation Center Renovation Project:
Frequently Asked Questions


What is being proposed?

The Carroll City Council has developed a $13.38 million plan to significantly renovate and expand the Carroll Recreation Center. The recommended design will update the infrastructure of the 43-year-old facility and provide additional amenities to better meet the community’s needs.

Why is there a need to renovate or expand the Carroll Rec Center?

The Carroll Rec Center was built in 1977. While the structure has been maintained well over the last four decades, it is not able to meet identified community needs and lacks energy efficiency in its current capacity. Specifically, the building requires updates to increase heating and cooling proficiency, to meet accessibility standards for persons with disabilities, to provide enhanced safety features, to offer more privacy in locker rooms, and to accommodate community requests for more physical activity and fitness options for persons of all ages.

How many people utilize the Carroll Rec Center annually?

The Rec Center has high usage. Approximately 110,000-120,000 visitors utilize the facility each year.  

What areas would be renovated under this plan?

A large portion of the interior space of the Carroll Rec Center will be renovated. Highlights include:

  • Moving the welcome/sign-in desk and staff offices to the west entrance
  • Relocating and updating the community/senior activities room to area of current staff offices
  • Gutting and rebuilding locker rooms to increase showers and add more privacy (resulting in one for females and one for males)
  • Revamping the building’s HVAC system
  • Incorporating a new family locker room area with four family changing rooms
  • Improving commons area with more tables, TV’s and coffee stations

Are there areas that will not be renovated?

Yes. The multi-purpose classrooms, auditorium, storage rooms, weight room and the current dual court gymnasium will not be updated.

What are the new amenities that will be constructed?

Newly constructed additions include:

  • A 15,000 square foot gym
  • A raised walking/running track (1/10th mile walking loop)
  • An indoor aquatic addition with zero-depth entry, spray pad and water slide and ample natural light
  • New steam room and sauna (which will be available more hours during the day)
  • Wet classroom (meeting space located next to swimming pool)

Who decided what would be included in the project plan?

Expansion and renovation concepts approved by the Carroll City Council were designed based upon feedback given by Carroll residents. In fact, nearly 400 citizens voluntarily completed a 6-page survey to identify gaps in services and suggest targeted improvements for the Carroll Recreation Center.

After analyzing survey results, an independent engineering and design team then conducted extended interviews with a small group of residents to ensure the community’s vision could be translated into an actionable, realistic, and affordable renovation.  This level of research also guaranteed only components that filled the biggest age-specific activity gaps or met the strongest identified needs were included in the proposal.

Why not break the project into smaller phases over multiple years?

The Carroll City Council spent several months discussing this option of breaking the project into multiple phases. City officials worked with RDG Planning & Design who provided cost estimates for both a single project and a phased approach. The phased project with pool improvements finished in 2021 and other area completed in 2022 was estimated to cost $15.05 million – or $1.67 million more than a single project completed in 2021.  Of that amount, $1.31 million is attributable to contractor overhead, mobilization and coordination of the project with the remaining $360,000 related to inflationary costs of delaying part of the project by just one year.

Why does the city of Carroll want to move forward with this project now?

Parks and Recreation staff and city officials have discussed the need to renovate the Carroll Rec Center for more than a decade. During that time frame, estimates were generated but agreement could not be reached on funding the full scale of improvements needed. There are several factors that officials felt confirmed now was the right time to move forward with a solution to identified needs.

First, it is projected that each year renovation work is delayed, the total cost will increase 5% or $600,000 annually. 

Second, interest rates have recently fallen to an all-time low. Projections in May 2020 verified the current interest rates would save taxpayers $500,000 in interest payments from projects completed as recently as December 2019 with higher rates.

Third, the city of Carroll is close to paying off short and long-term debt related to the Outdoor Aquatic Center, the Cemetery Maintenance Building, and 3rd Street improvements. Therefore, the city has the borrowing capacity to make these much-needed improvements.  If approved, the debt service levy will initially remain unchanged and is projected to go down during the life of the bonds. 

Fourth, the funding strategy does not involve raising taxes.

Fifth, because 64% of the project under this proposal would be paid for with LOST (Local option sales tax) funds, less burden will be placed on Carroll residents to shoulder the entire cost. That payment mix means most funds could be generated from individuals who shop locally but live outside city limits.

Due to COVID-19, is this a good time to move forward with a large project?

While there are still many unknowns on how long COVID-19 will disrupt the economy, most analysts believe large commercial projects that require fundraising or business expansions will be put on hold until the virus is under control. If commercial or large building activity slows as expected, the city of Carroll could receive more favorable bids for this project as contractors compete for work – potentially reducing the amount of money the city would have to borrow.


Why does the city of Carroll provide funding for the operation of the Rec Center?

Officials in Carroll and other communities across the nation provide parks and recreational opportunities as an essential service – just as public safety, water, and sewer – that establishes and maintains a high quality of life for residents. During the last four decades, the Carroll Rec Center has proven to be a strong recruitment tool for enticing new residents to move to the community.

Furthermore, while the city generates revenue from the Rec Center to offset the cost of operating the facility, it has treated it similarly to its many outdoor parks – considering it a unique, year-round indoor recreational attraction and subsidizing it to keep it enjoyable and affordable for all citizens of Carroll.

How does the Carroll Rec Center impact local economic development?

Multiple economic development studies have demonstrated that quality parks and recreation programs are consistently one of the top three reasons that businesses take into consideration when deciding where to locate.

The Carroll Rec Center generates additional economic value by promoting fitness and physical activity options as a preventive tool to reduce healthcare expenditures that can result from unhealthy, inactive lifestyles. According to a 2016 report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adults with a history of cardiovascular disease who exercised at recommended levels each week could save up to $2,500 a year in healthcare costs. Furthermore, the study concluded that if just 1 in 5 patients with cardiovascular disease across the country started exercising at recommended levels each week, billions in healthcare expenses could be saved. 


Has the Carroll Rec Center undergone any substantial renovation since constructed in 1977?

No. The main infrastructure of the building, including the heating and cooling system, has never been updated. The facility has been well maintained but is starting to show its age. Two minor renovations occurred in the last decade. Around 900 square feet of space was added to the weight room in 2017 and a small area was renovated to accommodate a family changing room in 2015.   

How will the project provide better access to clients with disabilities?

The Carroll Rec Center is including several elements to ensure it is more inclusive and accessible to persons of all abilities by maintaining ADA compliance throughout the facility. First, the pool addition will include lifts and ramps for easier access to all areas of the pool. Second, an elevator will be installed to enable access to the newly constructed 3-lane track on the second floor. Finally, the renovated locker rooms will provide more ADA change rooms.

How will the locker rooms change?

The locker rooms will be completely renovated. There will no longer be four separate locker rooms but instead two larger ones.  Both male and female locker rooms will have individual showers to provide privacy. There will be also be new bathrooms and lockers installed in each locker room.  

The renovation work will circulate cooler air in the locker rooms, but they will not be air conditioned. The reason is to avoid a sudden temperature drop from patrons exiting the pool directly into the locker room.   

Will there be more family changing rooms?

Yes. The renovation plan includes four family changing rooms that are accessed by a hallway outside of the commons area. This will be more ideal for families with young children who are waiting to access a room. Lockers will also be provided in the hallway for families to store their belongings while using the Rec Center.
What safety upgrades will be provided?

The renovation will create one main entrance that is monitored by cameras. When people enter the facility, they will be greeted by a staff member and will be required to check in via the electronic software program. Additionally, a new night-time building supervisor staff position will be added to assist with any potential problems.  

What energy efficiencies will be included in the project?

Newer, more energy efficient lights will be utilized throughout the facility. Furthermore, the lights in the weight room will be motion controlled. Finally, an essential upgrade of the overall heating and cooling system will provide higher efficiency ratings.

Will the heating and cooling updates impact the temperature in the current gym?

Yes. The project will meet the identified need of air-conditioning the current gym in the summer months.

Will the additions be built to allow more natural light into the facility?

Yes. There will be an abundance of windows along the raised walking/running path and the new aquatic addition. Incorporating natural light into the plan is one of many design elements to promote optimal health benefits.


What is the funding plan for this project?

The Carroll City Council is proposing to pay for the Carroll Recreation Center renovation and expansion project from the following three sources: 1) $1,000,000 in local option sales tax funds (already allocated by the Council), 2) $5,900,000 in general obligation capital loan notes, and 3) $7,610,000 in general obligation local option sales tax bonds that will be repaid with future local option sales tax funds collected by the city of Carroll.

Will this project increase property taxes?

No. The funding plan (link) does not suggest an increase in property taxes due to the Carroll Recreation Center renovation and expansion project.   This is possible due to several short and long-term City debts being paid off in the near future including the Outdoor Aquatic Center that opened in 2009 and with the City using Local Option Sales Tax to fund part of the project.  Therefore, resident’s property taxes should remain at the current rate.

Where does Local Option Sales and Services Tax revenues come from?

Local Option Sales and Services Tax (referred to as LOST) funds are generated from purchases made by individuals who shop in Carroll. This voter-approved 1% tax is added on top of state of Iowa taxes (6% statewide) for qualifying purchases made at Carroll businesses. Utilizing this stream of revenue ensures that individuals who live outside of the community are helping to pay for the amenity.

If LOST funds are used for the Rec Center project, will there be any funds left to subsidize other improvements in the community?

The City of Carroll conservatively estimates approximately $35.4 million in local option sales and service tax revenue will be generated in the next 20 years. Of this amount, 25% ($8.85 million) is required to go toward property tax relief and $10 million will be used for street improvement projects. After deducting the estimated $8.98 million that is proposed to go toward Rec Center project payments, $7.57 million would remain for future needs to be determined.

Will the City of Carroll seek donations from businesses and individuals?

No. Community donations will not be solicited.

Why won’t there be a fundraising campaign?

Due to COVID-19, the city of Carroll does not want to create further financial stress to businesses or residents. In addition to the uncertain economic climate, many people in the community are currently fulfilling pledges to the cancer center, library and other projects. City officials wanted a funding strategy that did not create hardships for residents.

Will the city of Carroll seek grant funding to reduce the need for LOST revenue?

The likelihood of receiving grant funding without having a community fundraising campaign is exceptionally low. However, the city will research possibilities for any grants that do not require community donations as a match.

Will membership rates or daily admission costs increase due to this project?

No. This proposed project is not tied to a membership or daily usage rate increase to subsidize construction expenses. Any future rate increases will be a result of operating decisions that are not related to the renovation plan.

Will there be more areas available for 24-hour access or changes in daily hours of operation?

The Carroll Rec Center will offer 24-hour access to the raised walking/running track in addition to continuing to offer 24-hour access to the weight room. Furthermore, the new sauna and steam room will be available during Recreation Center normal operating hours and not just when the pool is open.


What new water features will be added to the Carroll Rec Center?

The indoor swimming area will undergo a substantial change to better meet identified community needs. New amenities include:

  • Indoor aquatic playground safe area dedicated to families with young children
  • Zero-depth entry and splash pad
  • New steam room and sauna available more hours during the day
  • Four additional lanes open in the evening to allow no interference with Swim Team
  • New resistance water area for water walking
  • Large water slide
  • Climbing wall
  • Wet classroom (space located next to the pool)

What is a “Wet Classroom” and why is it being added?

The proposed Wet Classroom will be constructed next to the pool and have multiple functions. It will be used for swim lessons, lifeguarding classes, swim meets and rentals including birthday parties. This will increase safety and reduce the instances of patrons walking around the facility in wet clothing.

Will the current pool remain in its original capacity? Or will it also receive updates?

The current pool area will undergo minor changes. First, a climbing wall will be added to the deep end. Second, the overall temperature of the pool will be lowered to benefit competitive swimming.  This temperature change is only for the current pool and is not being proposed for the new pool addition.

Will there be a need to hire additional lifeguards?

Yes.  With the new pool addition, there will be a need to fill approximately 2700 additional lifeguard hours. Therefore, more staff will be hired.

Are there aquatic amenities that won’t require lifeguards and could stay open longer?

Yes. The indoor playground area will not require a lifeguard – just parental supervision. Additionally, a new steam room and sauna will be located near this area and will be accessible to adults whenever the facility is open – not just when the pool is open.

Under this plan, would a portion of the pool remain open during swimming meets?

Yes.  The new pool addition that includes the water slide, four lap lanes with warmer water temperature, therapy water resistance pool area, and splashpad – along with the sauna and steam room – will be available during swimming meets. 

Health-Related Information

How does the Carroll Rec Center impact the community’s health?

Providing access to fitness and recreation programs along with offering a wide variety of physical activity and community gathering opportunities in a safe and inclusive environment helps ensure the health of residents of all ages in Carroll. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that developing places to be physically active can improve individual and community health and result in a 25 percent increase of residents who regularly exercise.

How can this project improve the area’s wellness goals?

The Carroll Rec Center expansion and renovation project could be a unique tool to help improve Carroll County's 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps fitness scores that noted 27% of adults age 20 and over reported no leisure-time physical activity. This figure is much higher than the top U.S. county performers (19%) and the overall state of Iowa average (23%). Furthermore, just 75% of Carroll County's population reported adequate access to locations for physical activity - again well below top U.S. performing counties (91%) and the state of Iowa (83%).

The addition of a multi-purpose gym and aquatic amenities can help fill that perceived shortage of physical activity options within Carroll County.

How can adding more swimming lanes be a resource to improve health?

Research has proven swimming is one of the best forms of low-impact exercise. It's especially beneficial for pregnant women, overweight individuals, people with arthritis or those recovering from injuries. Swimming works your entire body, increases heart rate without undue stress, tones muscles, and builds endurance and strength.

Are there any health insurance plans that provide incentives to use the Carroll Rec Center?

There are a few insurance plans that now cover the cost for daily admission to the Rec Center. Check with the Carroll Recreation Center office for qualifying insurance plans.

Additionally, many local businesses have employee health program to encourage usage of the facility.

Can increased recreational activity options be a deterrent to youth crime?

Community recreation centers can have stabilizing effects on children by providing safe spaces for physical activity. In fact, research has shown a link between access to parks and recreation opportunities and a reduction in crime and reduced juvenile delinquency. For example, in a 2009 book "Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America," author Jeff Wiltse cites a study which found that on average, neighborhoods with community pools and other recreational facilities see juvenile delinquency rates reduced by 28%.

Explanation of Referendum/Voting Process

What is a referendum?

A referendum is the name given to a special election where the public is asked to vote on a single political question or particular proposal that has been referred to them by governmental officials for a direct decision. Referendums are most commonly required in connection with general obligation credit loans. Voters simply answer Yes or No when casting a vote in a special referendum election.

Why is the Carroll Rec Center referendum being made into a special election? Why can’t this wait until November?

A referendum is a special type of election that cannot be included on a regular ballot on the first Tuesday in November. The state of Iowa sets what dates can be utilized for referendum votes. For the year 2020, the only available options were March 3 or September 8. 

What will be asked on the September 8, 2020, city of Carroll referendum ballot?

On the September 8, 2020 referendum ballot, the city is asking for citizen approval on two topics.  The specific issues that voters will be asked to approve or reject on the ballot are as follows:

  1. To authorize imposition of a local sales and services tax in the City of Carroll, that will continue without repeal of the existing local sales and services tax at the rate of one percent (1%) to be effective from January 1, 2024, until repealed.

 Revenues from the sales and services tax are to be allocated as follows:

                                25% for property tax relief;

 The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are:

75% for necessary capital improvement projects as defined by the Council and which enhance necessary city facilities, thereby enhancing the quality of life for the citizens, and the economic competitiveness for the City of Carroll, and for any other lawful purpose of the City of Carroll, Iowa, as determined by the City Council.

  1. Shall the City of Carroll, Iowa enter into a loan agreement and issue its General Obligation Capital Loan Notes in an amount not to exceed $5,900,000 for the purpose of the construction, reconstruction, improvement, enlargement, extension, and equipping of a recreation center?

Can you explain what those referendum questions are asking and what percentage of votes are needed for each one to pass?

The first portion of the referendum is asking for Carroll residents’ permission to continue collecting a 1% Local Option Sales and Services (LOST) tax to extend past its current expiration of December 31, 2023. If 50% of voters approve this measure, funding will be made available for local property tax relief and future capital improvement projects – such as the Rec Center renovation.

If more than 50% of voters reject this measure, the LOST tax imposed in the City of Carroll will discontinue on January 1, 2024. At that point, a property owner with an average value home of $130,000 in Carroll can expect their city property taxes to increase approximately $50.00 per year to make up for the property tax relief that LOST is currently saving the taxpayers.  Additionally, county property taxes could increase due to the loss of LOST funds by the county.

The second portion of the referendum is asking for Carroll residents’ permission for the city to borrow funds not to exceed $5.9 million (excluding interest) for the Rec Center renovation and expansion project.

By voting yes for this portion of the bond referendum voters are giving the city permission to borrow funds for this project. 

By voting no, voters are not giving the city permission to borrow funds for this project.

For the project to pass, a super majority (60% plus 1) of approval is needed. Even if there is a majority approval, if there is less than the super majority (60% plus 1), the referendum will not pass. 

What is a general obligation loan note?

A general obligation (G.O.) loan note is long-term borrowing in which the city pledges its full faith and credit (taxing power) to repay the debt over a specified term.

Who is eligible to vote?

Residents of Carroll who are U.S. citizens, at least 18 years of age, and who meet all other voting requirements, are eligible to vote in this election.

Will there be early voting?

Yes. Residents of Carroll have two options to vote prior to September 8. First, eligible voters can make a written application to the Carroll County Auditor’s office to request an absentee ballot. Second, residents can vote in person at the Carroll County Courthouse starting August 10.

How do I request an absentee ballot and vote by mail?

Eligible voters who reside within city of Carroll limits can make a written application to the Carroll County Auditor’s office to request an absentee ballot. They can also visit https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf to download and print the form. These forms can be requested and mailed in at any time, but they must be received by the county Auditor’s office no later than 5 p.m. 11 days prior to the election. After the Auditor’s office receives the written request, the Absentee ballot will then be mailed to voters starting August 10. The resident must then return his/her completed ballot through the mail delivery system.

Age-Specific Amenities Included in Proposed Design

What features of the Rec Center proposal will appeal to families with young children?

One of the biggest gaps in services identified with the current Carroll Rec Center is the lack of amenities that can be utilized by families with young children. The addition of new aquatic features will help meet this need for the Carroll community.

The indoor aquatic playground area will be separate from the main pool and is being built specifically for young children. A large slide and climbing wall will also be added to the aquatic area. Furthermore, a new zero-depth entry, complete with a splash pad, will be constructed. On top of that, a wet classroom near the pool will provide a safer setting for youth birthday parties. Finally, there will be four family changing rooms independent from the main locker rooms in the facility.

What portions of the renovation are targeting seniors (aged 65+)?

Nearly 20% of the city of Carroll’s population are adults aged 65 and older. Therefore, the Rec Center renovation project will include the following components to better serve these residents:

  • Relocated and renovated activity room
  • A warmer water area in the pool for leisure swimming
  • Resistance water channel for aquatic walking
  • Safer area for walking/jogging
  • New and improved locker rooms
  • New steam room and sauna – with more hours of operation

What features will be added that are geared toward teenagers and young adults?

Prior to COVID-19, teens and young adults regularly packed the gymnasium for pickup basketball games, volleyball or other activities. A common concern for many years was there an additional gym was desperately needed. Therefore, the new 15,000 square foot multi-purpose gym will better meet this age group’s physical activity needs. This age group will also benefit from the new indoor aquatic features and raised track.

Other Questions

I don’t use the Rec Center. Why should I care about this project?

Health professionals recommend everyone should exercise at least 20 minutes per day. Many of the features in the proposed Carroll Rec Center renovation and expansion project will create an accessible, welcoming environment to make reaching that goal easier. For example, the new raised walking/running lanes alone will provide a fun and safe area for people of all ages to exercise.

The Carroll Recreation Center is many times a key factor that many people consider when deciding to move to Carroll or relocate back home. This renovation is expected to be a positive attraction to encourage additional population growth for the community.   

Will the facility stay open during construction?

Yes, but sections of the Carroll Rec Center may need to closed off for short periods of time during the construction phase.

What activities will be offered that aren’t currently offered now?

Rec Center staff will have the additional room and amenities to provide more recreation programming at the facility instead of relying on other gym spaces.

Will the renovation make it easier for first-time users to know where to go?

Yes, the staffed control desk that is currently near the commons area will move to the west entrance. This change will allow better interaction with the public upon entering the building and better control of foot traffic.  

Do you have more questions about this project?

Send us an email and we will get back to you!

Additional information on the referendum can be found on these pages:


Learn More:

Public Information Open House:

Aug 24 through Aug 28 – 9:00 AM
Aug 31 through Sept 2 – 5:30 PM

The meetings will be held at the Carroll Recreation Center at 716 N Grant Rd in an open house format with no formal presentation and everyone is welcome to come when convenient.

The Parks and Recreation Director, Jack Wardell, is available to meet with your group. Call (712) 792-1000.

Voter Information:

Vote September 8, 2020

Polls are open
7 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Absentee Voting Opened August 10, 2020. Absentee ballot requests formsmust be received by the Carroll County Auditor by Friday, August 28 at 4:30 PM.  Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday, September 7.

News Stories:

Council votes to set Sept. 8 Rec Center modernization referendum

Carroll’s modern Rec Center: Eyeing features, costs

Carroll Rec Center Tours And Coffee With The Mayor Scheduled Ahead Of September Bond Referendum

Carroll Residents Invited To See Initial Plans For Rec Center Renovation

Initial Public Response To Rec Center Improvement Project Appears Positive During Town Hall Wednesday