Consultant plans 3 meetings to get public's wishes for pool

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Before officials in Mt. Lebanon jump into plans for a multimillion dollar outdoor pool, they want to know what people want.

As part of a $32,000 feasibility study, consultants from Counsilman-Hunksaker, of St. Louis, will conduct three public meetings beginning in September, recreation director William Moore said.

Other methods of public input could include a blog, which is shorthand for a Web log, a method of posting comments online in journal form.

The goal is to find out how to replace Mt. Lebanon's 650,000 gallon outdoor pool, an aluminum structure built in 1976 to replace its original pool.

"A lot of places are doing this for the first time, while we're doing this for the third time, Mr. Moore said.

The pool, which took in $44,000 less than it cost to run it last year, could become a revenue generator for the municipality if heated water and attractions attract more swimmers and help book events during normally quiet times, officials said.

The pool was expected to have a useful life of 25 years and is showing signs of wear, including failed welds and bubbles in the frame because of water runoff from an adjacent hill, facilities manager Bob Hlebinsky said.

"The problem is, we don't know the integrity of the aluminum," Mr. Moore said.

"You have no way of determining what could go wrong," Mr. Hlebinsky said.

Additionally, underground piping which carries water to the filter from across the pool could be failing.

Many towns are building full-scale aquatics centers, but there are not many of them in this area, Mr. Moore said, partially because of funding gaps. Pools in other states often are paid for by sales taxes similar to Allegheny County's Regional Asset District tax or state lotteries. Most of the facilities become regional attractions.

The current draft of the five-year capital budget allocates $5 million for a new pool, municipal Manager Stephen Feller said. That is an estimate because there is no concept or scope of work for the project, he said.

In Mt. Lebanon, the pool hasn't taken in more than it has cost to run in about 15 years, Mr. Hlebinsky said. That difference is borne by the taxpayers and paid through the general budget. Neither Mr. Moore nor Mr. Hlebinsky had figures for how much profit aquatic centers in other towns make.

The feasibility study seeks to interview three specific groups of people: current users of the pool, people who never use the pool and people who might use the pool if certain features were added, Mt. Lebanon public information officer Susan Morgans said.

Another player and input provider will be the Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club, a private swim club which often uses the pool.

The first meeting will be in the recreation center at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 to educate the public on the nationwide trends in pools and aquatic centers, which are ambitious collections of water slides, lazy rivers and fountains.

Likely to be on the wish list is a heater for swimming on cooler days, Mr. Moore said. Other things include a zero-depth entry, which allows swimmers to enter gradually, as in the ocean.

The first meeting also will collect input. At the second meeting, different scenarios will be provided and the consultants will seek people's opinions on those.

At the third meeting, the consultant will provide a final report, including cost estimates for a good/better/best proposal for a pool.

The firm's plan will be submitted to Mt. Lebanon commissioners in the fall, with construction of a pool possible, but not probable, by fall of next year. More likely construction dates are 2008 or 2009, Mr. Moore said.


Laura Pace can be reached at lpace@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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