Residents still have concerns with pool

By on May 4, 2011

At Monday night s meeting of Ephrata Borough Council it was clear as pool water that despite the council s vote to move forward, a small group of local residents seem intent on keeping debate alive in hopes of further revising the approved plan. During the public comments portion of the meeting, resident Andy Kuzmiak, who has long been both active and vocal in the process of determining the pool s future, again raised issues with the final plan. I realize I m kicking this dead horse, and now it is bloated (along) with the pool literally, said Kuzmiak. But I still have trouble understanding taking that little quarter part away from the Olympic pool. If we can’t afford to maintain that and utilize that little part of the pool perhaps we should put the brakes on the whole project and move it out to Ephrata Township.

In a telephone interview initiated by Kuzmiak after the meeting, he put it another way: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, he commented. I just feel we should be doing the bare minimum of what needs to be done. Fix the deficiencies with the pumps, water lines, leaks, etc.

In the phone interview, Kuzmiak said, We should add the slides and amenities. He also feels the borough should further address the decision to operate the snack bar through an outsource vender. During the actual council meeting, Kuzmiak also complained that there were no plans for seating for snack bar patrons from outside the pool complex. Don’t just re-open the snack bar with pizza and soda. It should be a full menu, Kuzmiak added. Kuzmiak is also displeased with pool management. He feels there should be better, firmer management of the pool along with much better, more structured programming. In addition, he is not pleased with plans to replace the old chain link fence, or the idea of filling in that portion of the Olympic-sized pool. He alluded to his view that because this was a municipal decision and not a business decision, that perhaps the best decisions had not been made. To illustrate his point, he suggested the borough could save $25,000 by not filling in that portion of the Olympic pool. In addition, Kuzmiak was also critical of the manner in which the council had come to its final decision. If this was a business decision instead of a municipal decision, you d never spend $2 million on something you d never get back.

Local business owner Melissa Palermo-Spero was also on hand to comment on the project. We have a lot of advantages other pools don’t have, said Palermo-Spero. I would not like to see the portion of the Olympic pool filled in. I would also not like to see the cost of the fence when the chain link fence already there is fine.

Palermo-Spero was also critical of the mansard roof to be added to the pool house as well as the approved volleyball court. The plans are lovely but we can invest some of this money elsewhere, she added. Resident Brian Hoffman commented that if not for all the community involvement in the project, the approved plan would be to dig up the old pool and completely rebuild it. So community involvement was proof positive that we really did give and take on this, commented Hoffman. That fence won’t affect whether people want to come to the pool. It is (pool) management and amenities. Management has been adequate from a maintenance and cleaning perspective, but from a business perspective, what do we do to boost revenue? I would hope that will happen with this new project. Hoffman also commented on plans for the snack bar. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing this, but for crying out loud, if there is an event at the pavilion and it rains and there is no seating area, Hoffman added. That (additional) seating area is for non-pool customers. I feel its poor planning and shortsighted.

Hoffman also suggested council rethink the idea of removing the roof over the current skate park located just behind the pool. He pointed out that often when a small rain shower would blow over, pool patrons could find shelter there until the rain stopped, then return to the pool. Without that roof, Hoffman feels patrons will be more likely to head to their cars and decide to leave, rather than wait out the rain. Mayor Ralph Mowen clarified that the discussion on the pool s future had been open to the public for several years. This is not something this body just did, said Mowen. It was done by public concern and people talking to their representatives. I was very much opposed to the $4 million-plus plan, but I am very much in favor of this current form.

Council member Vic Richard further clarified that the impetus for the project was that the original pool is now over 70 years old. He pointed to the intermittent failures with valves, chlorination, and filtration. He added that with the on-going issue of water loss with the newer Olympic pool, which itself is 50 years old, the council grappled with the issue of continuing to sink money into such an old facility. The overall decision was that, listening to the community, moved this council from a complete rebuild to retrofit, commented Richard. We need to be pro-active not reactive and a year without the pool would be problematic. We got enough calls from residents, concerned about a catastrophic failure. We felt we had invested enough money in a pool that would not get better.

Bringing the hour long discussion to a close, board president Anthony Kilkuskie said he concurred with Richard s comments. He pointed out that Rec Center Director David Lloyd had come to the appropriate council committees, walked them through the problematic areas with the current facility and described the long- and short-term problems with the pool. There was a need to do something of a substantial nature, Kilkuskie pointed out. We began with a new pool or what evolved into a retrofit. It is on track, it has been voted on last meeting. We can continue to gather feedback on it but we are moving forward.

Council member Bob Good also weighed in on the fact the debate continues even after years of debate and a vote to move forward. It absolutely stymies me to sit up here after five years of listening to various opinions, watching committees try to come to something viable, working to get the cost down all in order to give the community something that they need, commented Good. If our pool is 80 years old not 70, keep in mind that it was built during the Depression. Somebody took a chance. Somebody said the community needed something and took a risk and that risk has served the community for 80 years.

Good also reminded the public of the lengthy process which had already taken place. Originally the idea would have cost $9 million. We scaled it down to $4 million, then with Mr. Kuzmiak s guidance for something viable, he put in the time and legwork, suggested a different designer and the committee went with Kuzmiak s suggestion of a retrofit rather than a complete rebuild. My point is that we are going to move forward. Good also took Kuzmiak to task over his discussion of this being a municipal decision versus a good business decision. That alludes to us not being smart enough or that we are less concerned because it is the public s dollars, responded Good. Maybe we could keep the old fence. Yes, the roof is decorative but something tells me that the design was to make it look more attractive.

According to Good, the original plans called for the pool house to be completely demolished and rebuilt to the tune of about $900,000. Considering the bare-bones approach to updating the exiting pool house, even with adding a mansard roof, the borough comes out ahead in the long run. Your opinions are valuable but this has gone on for a very long time, pointed out Good. If this council took all the opinions presented, there would be still more people voicing their concerns.

Borough council will hold its regular voting session on Monday night, May 9 at 7 p.m. For additional information, visit ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments at gpklinger@yahoo.com. More BOROUGH, page A7

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