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SANDY SPORTS CENTER PROPOSAL SOUNDLY DEFEATED

Amid reports of voting irregularities, backers of a plan to extend the Alta Canyon Sports Center's long-term debt might challenge the proposal's resounding defeat.

The ballot item, which would have extended by 12 years the Alta Canyon Recreational District's average $70 annual property tax on homes in southeast Sandy, garnered 2,957 favorable votes and 3,722 against it during Tuesday's primary, a margin of 56 to 44 percent.But Nancy Shay, executive director of the 8-year-old sports center, said county residents were allowed improperly to vote on the proposal at three of the 22 voting districts where the item appeared on the ballot.

The recreation center is funded by taxes levied exclusively against residents of southeast Sandy.

"At our split districts they weren't stopping the county residents from voting," said Shay. "Only city residents can vote in ours."

Shay said there is no way of knowing how many of the 6,679 votes cast were by people outside the city. She said Wednesday she won't know whether there will be a formal challenge or another vote on the proposal until she meets with the recreation district's board of directors.

The proposal would have built a new swimming pool and gymnasium at the center, paid for by a $3.5 million bond issue. Supporters played up the fact that it wouldn't have meant a property-tax increase, though opponents were quick to note it would've meant property owners would pay taxes on the center for a longer period of time.

Mayor Larry Smith said a "very significant anti-tax mood throughout the state and throughout the community" worked against the proposal. Smith said the amount homeowners in the recreational district pay toward the recreation center is almost as much as they pay in other Sandy city property taxes for local services.

The defeat was the only one among eight bond issues placed before voters in various districts around the state. Winners included school, sewer and water bonds elsewhere.

Shay said the cause was hurt by a last-minute campaign against it that she said was "inaccurate."

"They were calling the rec center an elite, exclusive club and that's the farthest thing from the truth," Shay said. "People should just come up and take a look and see what we're trying to do for the community and kids out here that don't have anything to do."

She said also that "a lot of people weren't given specific enough directions" on how to vote. "Our issue was at the back of the ballot, it was difficult to find . . . a lot didn't get to vote on it."

The center's current debt is slated to be retired in 1996, but the proposal would have allowed for the bond reissue to mature in 16 years. It would've paid for a six-lane, 25-yard indoor pool, a gym with two full-length basketball courts and a circular jogging track one-12th of a mile long, additional classrooms and a weight room expansion.

The center has about 2,400 members and charges $120 annually for a basic family membership. The recreational district is one of only three of its kind in the Salt Lake Valley. Others are in Cottonwood Heights and the Kearns area, and all are funded partly by property taxes and partly by membership fees. The Alta Canyon district extends from Dimple Dell to Sandy's north boundary and from the city's east border west to 1300 East.