New pool plan OK d by council
Unanimously approves $1.9 million project
By a unanimous vote, Ephrata Borough Council approved the proposed plan to renovate the Ephrata Community Pool. Council members authorized Wade & Associates to prepare designs and specifications for the community pool project. According to preliminary cost projections prepared by Wade, the project is expected to cost $1.9 million. Questions were raised regarding funding of the project. We don’t intend to borrow for this, said interim borough manager Bob Thompson. We can do this with cash through the reserve fund that has been put aside in anticipation of this project.
Concerns about funding the project went beyond the cost of the project when citizens questioned if the new complex would be able to support itself. Recreation department manager David Lloyd, who was on hand for the meeting, indicated that the current pool was about 90 percent self-funding, but anticipated that a renovated facility might draw more patrons moving that number closer to 100 percent. Resident Jeff Simmons shared some of his impressions of the project with members of council. We were looking at a $4 million rebuild, said Simmons. This plan is much improved over what we saw before but still comes down to my basic question: If my initial impression was that the old facility was leaking water and that was the primary reason we were doing this. I feel the focus of this project should be aimed at older people and not the children. Should we be focusing our money on attracting older people and not the children, since that is the fastest growing segment of our population?
Thompson said a major reason behind the project was to address the aging pool structure. He said a large part of the project would be to replace the underlying drains and then reline the pools. If are going to try and attract more people, why wouldn’t the size of the pool stay the same, questioned resident Tom Campbell. Why are you eliminating the adult size of the pool? If you want the attraction to be swimming, why make it smaller?
Reinhold explained that it came down to operating costs. He noted that over the course of the 30-year life of this new complex the savings would be estimated at about $270,000. Councilman Bob Good weighed in on the way the scope and focus of the project has changed in the course of the past several years as council has worked through its options. Perhaps we were looking at a larger radius from which to draw people to our pool under previous models, noted Good. But that changed because comments were coming to us on council about why we needed a $10 million pool. Then the price went down to $4 million and we kept getting the comments. The committee and those from council who came to their meetings concluded that we wanted something viable for community use.
Good also commented on what borough ultimately wants the finished product to look like. When we talk about bringing more people in, we want to have a product that looks like something, that is attractive, added Good. We don’t want something that looks second-hand or cheap, but something viable in construction and looks that we can be proud of in our community.
Good went on to say that while it is true the complex should have something for the older people, he reminded those present that the community pool should appeal to all those in the community regardless of age. And he challenged the people to see the pool as the summertime hub of the community and a place where everyone wants to be. The approved plans call for the elimination of the children’s pool in favor of the addition of a zero-depth entrance with bulkheads dividing areas for very small children and children over the age of 5. Bulkheads would also partition the children’s area from the deeper end of the pool. Additional seating would be placed on top of the bulkheads for parents watching their children in the pool. One of the more controversial parts of the plans call for part of the competition pool to be filled in, reducing it from 50 meters to 25 meters. Several age-appropriate water features would be added and much effort has been made to make the entire facility, from pool entrances to the bathhouses ADA compliant. A new entrance area would feature a new ticket booth, new manager s office and additional handicapped parking in closer proximity to the entrance. The project would also include a new pump house where all pumps and equipment would be centrally located. Other portions of the current complex will be retrofitted and updated. The snack bar area would be completely renovated. The exiting bathhouse would be renovated and a new roof added. New fencing, a new pavilion area, playground and volleyball court are also included in the new plans. What is important to me is how it is run, noted Good. It should become the hub of activity in the summertime. Everyone should want to go down to the pool. There could be dances, cookouts and family days. Use your imagination.
Chairman of the community services committee Tom Reinhold emphasized that time was of the essence to move forward with the next phase of planning if the borough wants to meet the May 2012 deadline. Now that council has approved the plans, Wade will now move forward developing plans necessary to begin bidding the project to interested contractors. In other borough business, council voted to authorize lease rental debt in an estimated amount of $7,575,000 in support of the Ephrata Borough Authority funding of renovations, upgrades and improvements necessary to Treatment Plant #1, which is located along Route 272 across from the Ephrata Public Library. While the borough would serve as guarantor for the debt in the form of a bond issue, that debt is considered self-liquidating through rates and fees collected from users of the sewer system. The project is necessary to bring the plant up to compliance with the Chesapeak Bay Initiative and requirement set by both state and federal environmental regulations. Borough officials confirmed that while sewer rates would likely go up, this project would not have an effect on taxes since it is not supported through the general fund. Instead, the debt would be serviced through revenues through Akron Borough, East Cocalico Township, Denver Borough, Ephrata Borough and Ephrata Township. The measure was approved with seven votes in favor and one abstention by council member Susan Rowe. When we first discussed this we were looking at about $10 million to $22 million to do this project, commented Mayor Ralph Mowen. We were able to back the project off to meet only current Chesapeake requirements and it the cost is now down to $7.5 million. I am very pleased with that.
There was also discussion of the recent losses due to fraudulent bank activity. Chairman of the budget and finance committee Russell Shirker updated those present on the ongoing investigation. He said that the actual loss was not $100,000 as previously reported but closer to $68,000. We have reviewed our internal processes and made sure we are safe, said Shirker. And I would point out that the investigation into this matter is not a done deal.
In committee, members discussed what steps have been taken to prevent future losses. Ephrata National Bank has put new procedures in place that prohibit someone from logging into an account from a remote site without proper confirmation. The borough is now monitoring account transactions on a daily basis as well as changing passwords more frequently. The borough will also be setting up a dedicated computer that will be used exclusively for all bank transactions. This computer will not have access to any other websites. The borough also purchased Cisco Advanced Security appliance to provide an additional lever of security for the Borough s network system. The committee feels at this time that proper measures have been taken to prevent future losses and an internal security assessment by a third party is not necessary. More POOL, page A18