Pool is done dealAfter years of debate and changing plans, work on new facility will begin in less than a month

By on August 10, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen (left) presents Ephrata Area Social Services Executve Director Tom Swalwell and EASS board of directors president Mindy Beatty with a proclamation in honor of the organization's 40th anniversary Monday night. (Photo by Stan Hall)Ephrata Mayor Ralph Mowen (left) presents Ephrata Area Social Services Executve Director Tom Swalwell and EASS board of directors president Mindy Beatty with a proclamation in honor of the organization's 40th anniversary Monday night. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Four weeks from now while the last wet swimming suits of the summer are still dripping dry, work will begin to completely transform the Ephrata Community Pool complex into a state-of-the-art, updated and renovated facility slated to open in time for the 2012 season.

Members of the Ephrata Borough Council voted unanimously to award two bids for that work, totaling over $2M. This came following a presentation by Wayne Wade, of Wade Associates, who reviewed the final plans and accessories planned for the new pool.

In his presentation, Wade stressed that the entire facility would be brought up to code and made compliant with the most up-to-date ADA requirements. These provisions would include both zero-entry ramps as well as lifts for both pools to assist those with both temporary and permanent disabilities in getting in and out of the pool. Wade also reviewed the final selection of water features.

"Our concept with your project was to create a leisure pool with something for everyone," said Wade. "We do this all over four states and we’ve never done a municipal project yet that didn’t result in a major increase in the use of the pool. This will become a huge attraction. We have found that the more water flying all over the place the more people you will draw.

One feature of the new Ephrata Pool will be climbing walls for both youth and adults. Wade said this feature alone would be a huge attraction in that not many local pools have such a thing.

As approved by council, the kiddie pool will be eliminated in favor of the zero-entrance renovation to the original pool. The bathouses will be renovated to bring them up to code and to meet ADA requirements. A mansard roof intends to add to the buildings renovated attractiveness. A whole new entrance will feature a circular driveway and new ticket and management office space. The snack bar will be renovated with plans for the space to be leased to an outside vendor to equip and operate.

Despite even the final eleventh hour appeal of longtime pool supporters and community activists such as Andy Kuzmiak, council agreed to reduce the 50-meter Olympic competition pool to 25-meters by filling in that portion of the pool.

"For the record, I have been battling to inspire and get the best bang for the buck," Kuzmiak told council. "I’ve even been on nearly everyone (on council’s) door step at one point or another. I’m just sorry that we are going to have the demise of the pool because we are stabbing the Olympic spirit," Kuzmiak said referring to the decision on the Olympic pool. "The taxpayers pay the water and electric for the 5 percent of the locals who use this pool. I don’t see why we could not leave the Olympic pool alone for this year. I’m sure we could still get a bargain on it next year."

Local businessman Brian Hoffman questioned council on the decision to reduce the depth on the diving end of the original pool.

"It’s 10 1/2 feet at the end of the pool currently," said Hoffman. "Why fill it in? What does it matter if you have an additional two feet?"

David Lloyd, director of the Ephrata Recreation Center which operates the Ephrata Pool for the borough, was on hand to field such questions. According to Lloyd, reducing the depth at that end by filling it in would save on demolition costs because the new drain system could be placed in that space.

Following deliberation, council voted unanimously to award the first contract to Balton Construction of Ephrata for a total of $909,730. That amount included the base bid of $898,000 plus $6,700 for the volleyball court sport surface and $8,500 for the infiltration bed. It also included a credit of $3,400 to keep the roof over the skate park rather than to demolish it.

The decision regarding the skate park roof was a late change to the plans presented to council at Monday night’s meeting. Council was decidedly split over the question of whether to keep the roof or remove it, ultimately passing the measure by a 5 to 3 vote.

Committee chair Tom Reinhold admitted that he was in the minority when his committee was split 2 to 1 on the issue initially, saying that he did not feel there was a sufficient balance between the benefits of keeping it against the cost of maintaining it over the years.

Councilman Bob Good was among those who felt the roof should stay. He said it came down to the fact the roof could provide shelter for pool patrons during occasional rain showers, and that by keeping the roof the overall utility of the complex would be greater than it would be by removing the roof.

"Initially I was for removing the roof," said councilman Vic Richard. "Then I decided it should stay. It is there now and we can fix it up for the short haul. We can always remove it later. The history book is not yet written on how the new complex will be used."

Councilman George DiIlio concurred.

"The existing roof feature offers flexibility," said DiIlio. "I have been assured the roof can be cleaned and painted. Sure it can be removed later, but once it is demolished it is demolished. (The) $3,400 is not that significant but it does show that we are serious about the project and not about ‘spending, spending, spending.’"

Offering a counter-viewpoint on the issue, councilwoman Susan Rowe felt that it should be the responsibility of the eventual snack bar vendor to add a covered seating area, should it be needed and not the responsibility of the borough.

"It should not be up to the borough to finance private enterprise," commented Rowe.

A second contract was awarded to Stoneridge Inc. of Feasterville in the amount of $1,129,000. Balton will oversee the general construction and improvements to the complex with Stoneridge to be responsible for the aquatic features. The breakdown on the costs associated with those features includes:

Base bid: $847,300

Alt. No. 1A Aqua Run Water Feature (furnish & install): $17,900

Alt. No. 2A Shower Tower Water Feature (furnish & install): $7,300

Alt. No. 3A Aqua Hoop Water Feature (furnish & install): $8,100

Alt. No. 4A Rain Drop Water Feature (furnish & install): $15,400

Alt. No. 5A Storm Spinner Water Feature (furnish & install): $10,500

Alt. No. 6A Sheetflo Curtain Water Feature (furnish & install): $8,500

Alt. No. 7A Large Tube Slide (furnish & install): $102,400

Alt. No. 8A Two-Tube Drop Slide (furnish & install): $25,700

Alt. No. 9 New Winterization Covers: $34,600

Alt. No. 10 Adult Climbing Wall: $29,900

Alt. No. 11 Child Climbing Wall: $21,400

Total: $1,129,000

Interim Borough Manager Robert Thompson reported to the Community Services Committee during committee meetings that capital budget included in the 2011 budget funds the project in 2011 at $1.5 million, including Wade and Associate’s design fee, and $600,000 is budgeted in 2012. The 2011 projected ending balance in the capital reserve fund is $473,000. However the funding of the entire capital reserve fund for 2012 assumes that there will be a transfer of $500,000 from the electric fund, which may require a modest increase in electric rates.

That increase in electric rates was mentioned in committee, reported to council through committee reports but not formally discussed before council in either the last Monday’s working session nor this week’s session. The exact likelihood of a rate increase and the possible amount of that increase has not yet been determined or confirmed.

The Community Services Committee also discussed that the funding for the pool project was already in reserve and has asked Thompson to provide an explanation for the project’s funding. Thompson was to provide an explanation to the committee prior to the work session.

Council also approved a motion to hire Wade and Associates for an additional design fee in the amount of $2,500, to cover the cost for the additional services to upgrade the electrical wiring in the bathhouse, which was not included in the original scope of work.

In other borough council related business, local resident Tim Deegan commented on a second lawsuit filed against the borough and a local union alleging the two entities illegally confiscated union dues payments from their paychecks in unconstitutional amounts and without following federal requirements.

According to an Aug. 3 press release by the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, who are representing eight borough employees, providing them with free legal aid in their first lawsuit, a second suit had been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District located in Philadelphia.

Yet as of Monday night’s meeting, borough officials were mum on the issue. Thompson, however, confirmed that as of yet the borough had not been served with any formal indication of the action.

According to the press release, "The borough employees, who have exercised their right to refrain from formal union membership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1600 union, previously asked the court to protect their National Right to Work Foundation-won rights upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and other cases."

The press release continues, "In Abood, the High Court ruled that although nonmember public employees can be forced to pay some union dues, they cannot be forced to pay for union politics and other union activities unrelated to bargaining. IBEW Local 1600 union officials were compelling the employees to paying a whopping 99.51 percent of full union membership dues before the lawsuit was settled. The employees are also asking the court to protect their National Right to Work Foundation-won rights upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires union officials to comply with specific due-process and disclosure requirements (such as an independently-audited financial breakdown of all forced dues union expenditures) before seizing forced dues from non-members. IBEW Local 1600 union officials are taking 90.68 percent of full union dues, which the charge states, includes amounts not constitutionally chargeable under the Abood line of cases."

The press release goes on to explain that the employees are again suing to obtain refunds of the amount of forced union dues payments taken from their paychecks, plus interest."

"IBEW union bosses are deliberately keeping rank-and-file workers in the dark to keep their forced-dues gravy train going," said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation Legal Information Director. "Pennsylvania should adopt a Right to Work law so independent-minded employees do not have to jump through legal hoop after legal hoop just to find out what they are being charged for."

Contacted on the matter, Mayor Ralph Mowen refused to comment.

Deegan commented on the costs associated with defending such a lawsuit.

"(The eight borough employees) are represented by the National Right to Work who is paying all their legal fees," said Deegan. "If that is the case, the taxpayers will be paying the cost of defending in this case. It is just my opinion but so long as these eight employees are getting free legal services without paying a dime, they have no real stake and no monetary stake on this, but the taxpayers do. I think these eight people will never be happy with any fee they need to pay so long as they are getting free legal representation. If they feel that strongly they should pay their own legal costs. If they feel that strongly, they can go find employment in a non-union facility." More BOROUGH, page A16

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