Aquatic center sketch

Sketch of the proposed aquatic center by Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site Inc.

The division within Peters Township Council regarding a proposed multimillion-dollar aquatic center continues.

Most votes on moving the center forward have gained approval by a 4-3 margin, and the same went for three measures on the agenda of council’s latest meeting.

James Berquist, Frank Kosir Jr., Robert Lewis and David Ball, council chairman, cast ballots in favor of a change order to the design contract for the center, along with authorizations for staff members to prequalify contractors as potential bidders and to solicit bids for the project.

Continuing their opposition were Frank Arcuri, Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel Jr.

The change order in the contract with Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site includes revision to the center’s original design that “will result in estimated savings in construction costs of $1.455 million,” according to a fact sheet distributed at the council meeting and made available on the township’s website.

A variety of items have been dropped, most notably a “lazy river” feature.

“It takes less than a minute to go around it, and it’s cost is about $400-$450,000. I don’t think that’s an amenity that makes sense to be included,” township manager Paul Lauer said. “If you eliminate this, it gets it closer to the target that I believe we ought to be shooting for, about $2 million in savings over the original design.”

In May, council rejected all bids for the center when the lowest came in at $11.482 million. Subsequently, Kimmel Bogrette developed a “value engineering report” outlining potential savings.

At the start of September, the township hosted a series of open houses during which residents were able to ask questions and receive more information about the project. They also were asked to fill out a survey regarding the aquatic center, and other residents had the ability to do so online.

“When I look at the survey results, what I see is what we have seen before,” Lauer told council. “There is a majority of people in Peters Township who would like us to go ahead with this project, based upon that survey.”

The results show 71% of the 643 survey respondents answered affirmatively to the question: “Should the user fees be set so that aquatic center users pay all cost associated with the operation of the Rolling Hills Aquatic Center including administrative costs?”

“This paying for itself doesn’t change whether you’re in favor of the pool or opposed to the pool,” Lauer said. “I think there’s a universal expectation that the pool cover its operating costs, which I think has implications for setting fees.”

  • An operations study submitted to the township in April by BallardKing & Associates, a Colorado consulting firm specializing in recreation and sports center feasibility studies, gives the example of a full-center daily rate of $8 for individual township residents ages 59 and younger, and $10 for nonresidents.

For the center to pay for its operational and administrative costs, fees may have to be set at higher rates.

  • “That would seem like it would be logical, because their estimates were several months ago, and now the current environment for hiring people and paying people has changed,” Merrell said. Hourly wages cited by BallardKing, for example, range from $10.50 for cashiers and attendants to $17 for aquatics center supervisors.

She questioned whether the prospect of higher fees would dissuade some residents from continuing to support the center.

More information is available at www.peterstownship.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=153.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!