Peters Township Council is preparing to again bid out the aquatic center project, but this time around will also seek quotes for an alternate design that leaves out a spray park.
Council rejected bids for the planned water park at Rolling Hills Park in May 2021 when they exceeded the anticipated $10 million budget. After voting unanimously to move ahead with prequalifying bidders, township manager Paul Lauer suggested putting the project out to bid with the spray park as optional construction.
“Is that something you would consider, or does that change the project so much that the project at that point ought not to be done?” Lauer asked council.
Eliminating the spray park would take away a sizable portion of the aquatic center meant specifically for young children. According to Lauer, a building planned to house restrooms near the spray park would still be constructed, essentially as an empty shell.
“In fact, you could go back and easily plumb this at some future date as a restroom,” Lauer said.
Council Vice President Frank Kosir Jr. said it wouldn’t hurt to see the alternatives.
“My only concern is if you do that, you’re eliminating what little kids could use if you take out the spray park,” Kosir said.
Lauer agreed that was an issue with removing the feature, particularly from a financial perspective for the township.
“What we keep hearing from council is we want this thing to pay for itself. As you reduce the amount of elements that are there, particularly if you reduce this area, which can be opened up early and held open later, it will have an impact on your revenue generation ability for the facility,” Lauer said.
Council member Robert Lewis was also supportive of being able to see more options. Lewis raised a few possible alternatives to a spray park that the land could be used for.
“My vision of an alternate way to get more engaging activity is to broaden some of the other functions that we could get into the park,” Lewis said. “I’ve always been an advocate for dek hockey. I think we have a demand for more basketball courts. If you get something that allows the families to get more engaged with what’s going in, that ... is going to contribute to usage. I’ve never particularly embraced the toddler park, but I don’t mean to say that it’s not a good idea.”
Frank Arcuri expressed frustration that the prospect of an alternative design was being brought up at this late stage in the process.
“I tend to agree with Mr. Kosir that if you’re going to do something like this, you’re basically taking away the function for the little kids,” he said. “When I asked before whether we could piecemeal this and do a building and a pool, and then add on, you told me we couldn’t do that. Now all of a sudden we can?”
Lauer responded that he personally believes the aquatic center’s best chance to succeed would be if they were able to move ahead with the original plan, spray park included.
If the bids come in too high again, the third option would be for council to step away from the aquatic center project, which already has $3 million in committed grant funding.
“The truth of the matter is, we live in a different world now than we did three years ago when we were deciding this. We’ve put so much work into this, we have to send it out and see,” Kosir said. “If it comes back in at $12 million or $13 million or something like that, then I don’t know what we do. It’s a shame to walk away from the grants, but at the same time we can’t spend that kind of money to build this if that’s what we’re looking at.”