Ideas Shared at Public Meeting

September 8, 2006 at 9:42 am 5 comments

Despite an unforseen conflict with the high school’s open house–and resulting parking problems–about 65 residents attended the September 6 public meeting about plans for a new aquatic center.  Scott Hunsacker of Councilman-Hunsacker, the consulting firm that is conducting the feasibility study, made a brief presentation that included pictures of state-of-the art centers around the country. The facilities ranged in style and price from moderate to high end, with the idea of showing residents the various options that might or might not be included in Mt. Lebanon’s aquatic center.

Following the presentation, the group broke into four sub groups with municipal staff members acting as facilitators and brainstormed around four topics, with their ideas recorded for the consultants to study later.  The questions were: Which of the following uses for a swim center–recreation, competition, wellness, or lessons–would you give the highest priority?  If you could retain one thing about the existing Mt. Lebanon Pool, what would it be?  If you could change one thing about the existing Mt. Lebanon Pool, what would it be? (If money were no object), what amenities would you like to see included?)

The groups, which made presentations at the end, unanimously agreed that recreation should take top priority. (Most people included wellness activities as a form of recreation). Participants also unanimously agreed,  that teaching every child to swim should remain a goal and that a new facility should provide for the same types of competition that currently take place in Mt. Lebanon’s 50-meter outdoor pool.

Common requests were for heated water, zero-depth entry, more shade, more deck chairs, a baby pool connected to the main pool and nicer locker rooms. Most people favored retaining the current “footprint” and having a limited but not huge number of recreational amenities such as the existing water slide and sprinkler.

At the evening’s end, each group was asked to present two points that summarized its discussions.  Basically, people agreed that they wanted an updated, clean, safe aquatic center that would meet the needs of residents of all interests and ages–a pool with some recreational amenities but not too many “bells and whistles.”  And all agreed that is is critical for the school district and the municipality to coordinate their separate renovation plans so that there is not a substantial duplication of effort of an undue burden placed on taxpayers.

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You ask; we answer Aquatic Center is Removed from Bond Issue but Planning Continues

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tom Ross  |  September 9, 2006 at 11:30 am

    First, I must wonder whether there truly is a need for a new pool at this time. We seem often to be driven as a community by the felt need to have the newest and biggest “state of the art” public facility. But what has made our family’s life in Mt. Lebanon enjoyable has typically had little to do with astroturf fields or big new public buildings but rather the sense of community, the old well-maintained homes on tree-lined streets, and the kindness of neighbors.

    But I suspect that, as a practical matter, the question of whether we’re going to spend millions of dollars on a new pool/aquatic center is no longer on the table. The only question now seems to be the design of the new facility.

    One thing I am absolutely sure of is that any “Lazy River” bells-and-whistles, big water park would be a disaster. More traffic, the need for more parking spaces, and the inevitable gobbling up of even more of the precious park land. A mini-Sandcastle is the last thing we need.

    Happily, it sounds as though the residents who attended this last meeting (and thanks to them for taking the time to do so) have identified the fundamentals of any new facility- an updated, clean, safe aquatic center that is family and lap swimmer friendly. Maybe a water slide and some other simple fun extra but essentially an updated version of what we currently have. If we must build a new facility, these sound like sensible ambitions.

    Finally, any arguments about needing a fancy multi-million dollar aquatic center to maintain property values and attract new residents needs to take account of two facts. First, the overall sense of community and the quality of our public schools, and not a new aquatic center, are the critical elements of our property values. Second, we need to be watchful abour our tax burden. Many of our residents, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, are already struggling to pay the existing local taxes. And this community has some other infrastructure issues ahead, perhaps most significantly the call to build a new high school, which cannot be far off. Adding another multi-million dollar debt that our tax dollars must service to build a new pool when the existing one could be maintained may be a mistake.

    Thanks for considering these thoughts.

    Tom Ross

  • 2. Mark Rauterkus  |  September 10, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for the update and the blog. Keep up the good work in showing what the conversation is about. Any photos?

    Was there any talk about a more regional plan? What is going to go on down the road at Dormont? Does that even matter?

    I think we should think about regional elements — and swim pools are such an asset. A regional park district discussion makes some sense to me.

    Furthermore, what are the upgrades that would be needed for the existing Mt. Lebo outdoor pool? Pool heater? Cost to install? Cost to operate? Rehab of locker spaces? More chairs? More shade / tents? New gutters? New filters? Pool cover?

    And, how much is in the ‘rainy day fund?’ Who is managing that?

  • 3. Greg Daubner  |  September 11, 2006 at 8:26 am

    I’m not surprised that the first comment was an anti-tax one–albeit a thoughtful well-written one. I have to disagree with several points though.

    What we need to do is not always talk about money. We need to look at what’s best for the community. People love the pool. I know that although I don’t use it now I did a lot when I was growing up in the ’70s. Things like these are what make “sense of community” that Mr. Ross speaks of. It makes people happy to be residents of Mt. Lebanon. It’s assets like these that make Mt. Lebanon a special place to live. He said there would be more traffic. In other words, if we add the extra touches more people would use the pool. Isn’ t people using the pool the main reason to build one? And, the more people that use the pool the higher the revenue keeping taxpayer costs down. I should think a lot of people would like that.
    Finally, whether Mr. Ross believes it or not, community assets such as the pool do increase property values. it’s another reason to move to Mt. Lebanon. Many people come here because it’s a great place to raise kids–safe streets, top-of-the-liine public schools, neighborhood schools, neighborhood parks, and things such as an excellent community pool.

    Regarding the “bells and whistles” that Mr. Ross doesn’t want, I say he made a great argument for them.

  • 4. Joe Wertheim  |  September 19, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Yes, we do need to talk about money, and taxes. Too often those making decisions about what is “needed” in Mt. Lebanon are more concerned with building monuments to themselves. Mr. Daubner, request the information about the history of the recreation department – growing losses every year. Recreation is certainly an area that the community supports, but shouldn’t we expect that these facilities at least break even (the tennis center manages to do very well without constant municipal (taxpayer) support). This new aquatic center proposal was not something that was demanded by the community- it is being pushed by municipal employees and the Aqua Club. If the old pool becomes un-usable then it should be fixed or replaced, but we do not need a Sandcastle in Mt. Lebanon. And the cost of such projects, especially those that lose $500,000 per year, must always be considered!

  • 5. Susan Pavlick  |  October 26, 2006 at 10:39 am

    My family has enjoyed visiting Cranberry pool once or twice a summer and I wanted to offer a few suggestions based on their pool facility. A zero depth entry (that I think most people are in agreement with), scattered permanent umbrellas that offer several groups shade at the same time, a fair amount of chairs and one of our favorite things – the sand area. (I wouldn’t think it would be too costly) It is hard to describe, but it is a fairly spacious sand pit with two stations of colorful pipes that have water flowing out of them There are different ways to manipulate the water flow to fill up buckets, small water reservoirs etc. They have lots of shovels and buckets to play with and a place to rinse off before reentering the pool. There are 2 or 3 benches around the area for adults to sit on. We use that area a fair amount because of another favorite feature of the pool…adult swim times every hour. They offer 10 (or 15) minute breaks for adults (and infants carried in their parents arms) to enjoy the pool, splash free. I think that it makes the pool a little more community friendly for those without children (and even those with). ( It probably bumps up concession revenue, too!)
    With all of that said, I agree that the bells and whistles should be kept to a minimum. I don’t think we need lazy rivers, fancy slides beyond what our pool already has, etc.


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