$3.95 million in recreation upgrades get Mt. Lebanon commission's OK

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Mt. Lebanon Swim Center will undergo renovations as planned, but at a significantly higher cost than anticipated.

The municipal commission voted Tuesday to award $3.95 million in construction contracts, bringing the project's total cost to $4.28 million. The overall budgeted amount was $3.5 million.

"We're not seeing the great value in construction costs that we saw two, three years ago," said design consultant Mark Edelman, explaining that the bids Mt. Lebanon received reflect current market conditions.

Mr. Edelman, who owns EPM Architecture of Bradford Woods, recommended against rebidding the project, saying bids could come in higher and the process would hinder completing the improvements in time to open for the 2014 season.

Because work is scheduled to start after the pool closes Labor Day, commissioners decided to take action Tuesday rather than cause a delay.

The vote was 3-1. Matt Kluck, commission president, was opposed, and Kristen Linfante, who had followed the proceedings via computer hookup, was unavailable by the time the vote was taken, nearly three hours after the scheduled start of the regular meeting.

"I didn't vote for the bond issue in the first place. That's why I voted no," Mr. Kluck said.

In November, the rest of the commission approved borrowing a net of about $4.5 million toward recreational improvements at several locations. The cost of the swim center, though, leaves little from the bond issue to pay for anything else.

One of the other proposed projects involves making improvements to two holes at the municipal golf course. The sole bidder for the project also came in far over budget and commissioners on Tuesday rejected the bid.

Further plans address major upgrades to Brafferton Park. Again, costs appear to be much higher than anticipated, although commissioners did approve a conditional use for a parking lot at the site.

Improvements to the swim center, which opened in 1977, include overhauling the bathhouse, installing a pool heater and numerous upgrades to the center's infrastructure.

For swimmers, a new feature will be zero-depth entry into the pool, a sloped area similar to a beach. Also, a new water slide

with a pair of flumes will replace the two slides now in use.

Another planned amenity is a rock-climbing wall next to the pool, although that is not included in the contracts awarded Tuesday. The municipality can save money by purchasing the wall separately and having staff members install it, said David Donnellan, recreation director.

Swim center attendance has been about 50,000 people per season.

"That could dramatically increase with a substantially renovated facility," Mr. Donnellan said.

The center has experienced operating losses for "a decade or more," he noted.

"I believe the pool will be better than break even, to the tune of about $20,000," he said about projections for 2014.

Although the swim center project is more costly than anticipated, some commissioners said they consider it to be essential.

"The purpose of that bond and the driving force behind it was the pool," Commissioner David Brumfield said. "We have to do the pool, and we have to do it right."

Ms. Linfante agreed.

"To do it halfway is to not really serve the community the way we intended to do in the first place."


Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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