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Council not budging on poolBids coming in include removal of ‘Olympic pool’ section, diving board
By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
"A pool without a diving board is a glorified puddle."
That opinion, one among many shared at Monday night’s Ephrata Borough Council meeting was one shared by one of the pool’s lifeguards, Michelle Auker.
"I’m all for change but I feel like you have been deciding on this for a very long time," said Auker. "Actually, I thought you would never come to a decision, just keep pushing it back and pushing it back. Now I feel you rushed into this and now we are just ‘settling’ for this plan."
Mayor Ralph Mowen disagreed, reminding the audience that the pool project, which is currently out for bids has been five years in the making.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pool without a diving board," added Auker, who said she was not alone in her feelings about the new design. "A pool without a diving board is a glorified puddle. That’s just my opinion."
In her comments before council, Auker recognized that the pool issue was already decided business before council and acknowledged that due to being away at college she was unable to personally attend any of the planning meetings. Nonetheless, she stressed an opinion held by herself and others on staff at the pool that the approved plans do not reflect the best interests of the community.
"I strongly feel the changes are not in the best interest of what is good for the pool," noted Auker. "Getting rid of the diving board is a mistake. It is a major attraction for swimmers from ages eight into their teen years."
Auker added that she has seen a steady decline in teens attending the pool and said she was concerned that without the diving board that number would drop off sharply. To make her point, she said this past Sunday alone there was a two-hour long line of kids waiting to use the diving board.
Among other concerns raised by Auker was the general layout of the kiddie area of the new pool, stating that parents would feel less safe placing their children in the new area because it is not fenced off. Her concern is that smaller children could face serious injuries in the new area.
Auker also challenged council on the main topic surrounding the pool this past week: the elimination of half of the 50-meter Olympic pool. Having been active at the pool both as patron and lifeguard for several years, she said she feels that decision was a mistake that could further erode memberships.
"That pool is a major attraction to our pool, noted Auker. "Many people buy passes just to swim in that section of the pool without having to dodge beach balls and swim toys," adding that this was a key point she would have made had she been able to attend the meetings.
Duke Street resident Tom Campbell echoed some of Auker’s concerns, namely the plan to cut the 50 meter pool down to 25 meters.
"My concern is with making the pool smaller to attract more people," said Auker. "That makes no sense. With Sunday’s swim meet the place was packed. Without that lower pool at it’s current size customers will be risking life and limb to find a spot in the other pool. I don’t understand how that makes sense to make an existing pool smaller."
Campbell agreed with Auker that the current plans will actually cost customers rather draw new ones.
Chairman of the Community Services Committee Tom Reinhold was not present for the fireworks at last week’s working session of council. This week, however, he expressed his view points on the 11th hour debate on the project.
"Some feel we should have the 50-meter open and then open it up to whomever wants to come into our community and turn our noses to our regular patrons," said Reinhold. "I don’t want to do this eight to ten weekends a summer."
Reinhold explained that before his time on council the plans called for a grandiose new water park to replace the existing facility. Those plans changed in direct response to the community outcry over the cost of the original plans, leading to the current iteration which Reinhold described as a community meeting place.
"I didn’t’ look at this as a business where we could generate a certain amount of revenue," added Reinhold.
Reinhold questioned the true impact of last weekend’s meet on local business, noting how many people he saw tailgating at the meet, some even with their own hibachi grills.
Last week, council member Dale Hertzog had weighed in on the matter, rhetorically asking of council:
"I just want to clarify: council did vote on this matter?" posited Hertzog. "And council also voted on the plan before them? And the plan voted did not have a 50-meter pool…is that correct?"
Reinhold also conceded Monday nigh that the decision to do away with the diving board was difficult, but also necessary due to the additional cost of making that portion of the pool deeper in order to bring it up to current day standards for such features.
"When it came to the decision to take the diving board away, the depth of the pool was the big issue," said Reinhold. "If push comes to shove, this was voted on and passed unanimously in April. At that time we discussed perhaps some of the toys but not conceptual issues."
Council member Bob Good again questioned the possibility of making any changes at this point. Reinhold reiterated that one of his chief standards for this project was to have it completed in time to open on time for the Memorial Day opening to the 2012 swimming season. Making any changes at this point in the process would seriously jeopardize that goal.
Currently the project is out for bids. It was revealed at Monday night’s meeting that the original July 15 deadline for bids to close was extended to July 22, with bids to be opened and read that day at 11 a.m. at a public meeting. Acting Borough Manager Bob Thompson said that while it would be public meeting, the meeting would consist of nothing more than publicly reading the details of bids received, line item by line item. He stressed that it would not be a time for public comment. That time would come on Monday night, July 25 when a special meeting will be held to review the bids in greater detail. Architects for the project, Wayne and Associates, will also be present for that meeting.
"I know this council voted on what the pool should be," stated Good. "I understand. I also understand the absolute desire to have this pool completed and ready to open on time next year. But it was always my thought that when your bids came in that there would be a time when you could fine tune it."
Thompson explained that any changes entertained at this stage of the process would likely set the project back approximately 60 days, pushing the start of construction into November and costing the contractor crucial Autumn construction days. He further explained that making a change order once the bid had been awarded could cost the borough additional funds since the contractor would understand they were the low bidder and not feel any obligation to be competitive with the cost of changes.
Mowen added that keeping the 50 meter pool intact would involve more than simply changing some numbers. He said that unless that had been included as a possible option in the bid packages, it would require those bidding on the project to go back and do considerable work to re-engineer and redesign everything from demolition and construction costs to re-configuring the pump and filtration requirements of the project.
"It would affect major engineering and redesign which would place it back to square one," said Mowen. "If you did not specify an option for keeping the 50 meter pool to add it at this point requires additional engineering."
Local resident and long time participant in the planning process, Andy Kuzmiak, challenged the assertion that keeping the 50 meter pool would be throw the project that far back.
"Is there not another alternative such as to issue and addendum to the bidders and the designer to come up with the extra option to keep the 50 meter and the voters would get the extra option," said Kuzmiak. "It cannot take that long to change the parameters of the pump and filter etc."
"And how long do you suppose it would take," fired back Thompson. "It cannot be done overnight. You could issue and addendum. I’m not a fan of that method but the bids have been advertised and opened. If we are going to re-open it, my guess is that it would cost you the Memorial Day Opening."
Borough council candidate Tim Barr was also present for the night’s meeting. He voiced his concern that losing the 50 meter pool would be another speed bump to DEI’s efforts and the recovery of the downtown business district.
In the end, council removed un-moved in their position to keep the project unchanged.
In other council news, president Anthony Kilkuskie assigned the Special Projects Committee the task of looking into a recommendation by local resident and business owner Brian Hoffman to begin posting the meetings of all council meetings, including committee meetings on the borough’s website as soon as possible following the meeting. Borough solicitor agreed that the borough could do this without violating any law or code, agreeing with Hoffman further that doing so would require a disclaimer that such minutes were unofficial until approved by council. Chairman George DiIlio will look into the matter and report back to council in the near future.
Police Chief William Harvey reported that the proposed new School Resource Officer (SRO) Agreement that was discussed last Public Safety Committee meeting was being rescinded due to some areas of concern by other municipal partners. Chief Harvey presented a proposed extension of the current contract, taking the current contract from June 30 to December 31. Borough Solicitor McManus presented the prepared extension along with an accompanying letter from Interim Borough Manager Thompson explaining to all partners this would not have any financial requirements, for all municipal partners are paid up to December 31.
Chief Harvey stated that Thompson’s strategy for post extension signing is to have a meeting with all partners to refine the proposed future agreement. There have been inputs from all of wishes and ideas to make this more amenable to all. Harvey and Thompson have a working file of recommendations, and these meetings will be in the fall. Council voted unanimously to approve the measure.
Chief Harvey also presented the proposed changes to Borough Code of Ephrata, Part II, and Chapter 197-1 Junk Dealers. After receiving input from EPD staff, especially the criminal investigations unit, the Borough Solicitor crafted the proposed changes. Solicitor McManus presented to the committee why the recommendations would be desired. Council unanimously voted to approve the measure.
Council also unanimously voted to appoint George DiIlio to serve on the Shade Tree Commission. The term will expire on December 31, 2012.
And finally, EHS sophomore Jessica Hochreiter presented council with a report on her recent swine project done as her senior project through the school’s ag department. Hochreiter shared numerous photos of the mother pig arriving at the school just prior to delivering her 16 piglets and the significant work that went into caring for the mother and her babies. That work included cutting the needle teeth on each piglet to prevent them from hurting the mother. It also included a system of marking each piglets ears to indicate the litter and birth order of each. Tails were snipped to prevent injury.
Various inoculations and health measures were carried out in addition to the cleaning up the considerable amount of manure which came with the territory of raising animals.
The project was conducted in a small outbuilding on the high school campus in order to afford several other classes throughout the school to also observe the project.
Police Chief William Harvey was instrumental in the project, having helped as a liaison between the student, her teacher, Miss Sarah Quigg, and the various departments of the borough. Clearly impressed, Harvey could not say enough good about Hochreiter.
"Grown adults tend to shy away from public speaking, yet, Miss Hochreiter came and gave this impressive talk to council," said Harvey.
Harvey added that throughout the entire process he was impressed with the amount of initiative and foresight Hochreiter displayed, having already cleared several of the hurdles needed for approval of her project prior to even talking with Harvey about the project from a public safety perspective. Harvey noted that Hochreiter had successfully raised the bar quite high for future students following a similar path.
For more information on Ephrata Borough, please visit their website at www.ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. More POOL, page A6 Patrons sound off, A16