Friday, April 14, 2006

Everyone out of the pool! Dormont Pool to stay dry in 2006

I went to a three hour meeting earlier this week to see what was what with this swim pool situation and associated acts of government. This news release, yesterday, isn't too much of a suprise.
Dormont Pool Temporarily Out of Service

Neighboring Communities Ready to Assist in Handling Summertime Crowds

Dormont, PA – After much thought and consideration the Dormont Borough Council has decided that it will not open the Dormont Pool for the 2006 season. Meetings were held with the community the past few weeks to determine whether or not enough funding could be raised to cover the costs of major structural repairs, or at least temporary shoring, in order to keep the pool operational for one more season. However, Borough Council has decided that the best option at this stage would be to close the pool for one season and focus all efforts and future funding on making the necessary permanent repairs to make the pool and adjacent facilities safe for the public as well as operationally more efficient.

A structural engineering report by Borough Engineers provided at the March 13, 2006 public meeting indicated that the conditions of the main building support beams and columns are very bad and will only get progressively worse. The pool decking adjacent to the building is severely deteriorated due to chloride penetration and poses a serious safety threat if not repaired. Public safety concerns and the nearly $650,000 in repairs to the pump room and pool decking as well as nearly $2 million to stop the massive loss of water due to leaks in the pool, have lead to this necessary decision.

Maintenance has been conducted annually on the pool however the age of the 80-year old facility is becoming evidential and problematic requiring a more permanent solution.

"It is unfortunate that we did not discover the problems at the end of last season but fortunately these safety issues were identified before anyone was injured," cited President of Council Joe Costanzo. "At this point, closing the pool will ensure our citizens' safety while allowing us time to consider options and funding sources to get the pool operational again."

The Dormont Borough council wants to thank and will continue to support and encourage the residents of Dormont for their efforts to assist in finding the necessary funding that will be required to make all of the necessary repairs.

We are dedicated and will work diligently with our federal, state, and county representatives to obtain the funding to ensure that the Dormont Pool will be ready by Memorial Day 2007. In the mean time, it should be made clear that the Dormont Recreation Hall was deemed safe and will remain operational for use by the community for rentals to hold such events as graduation parties, showers, and most importantly fund raisers.

Note: Arrangements for Dormont residents to utilize some neighboring community’s pools are being made. Details will be provided soon. Information, as available will be posted on the Dormont Borough website: or contact the Borough office at (412) 561-8900.

Joseph M. Costanzo, President

Linda L. Kitchen, Vice President
Chairperson, Public Safety Committee

Mary Beth Kovic, Member
Chairperson, Community Affairs Committee

John Sparvero, Member
Chairperson, Property Planning & Supplies

Tim McCoy, Member
Chairperson, Public Service Committee

Rebecca Lafferty, Member
Chairperson, Finance & Legal Committee

Ann Conlin, Member
Chairperson, Recreation Committee
At the meeting, I noticed three major 'camps' and 'issues.'

First, a great deal of frustration comes from the citizens to the board. The citizens don't trust the elected officials. The citizen leadership was very skeptical, to say the least.

Dormont has had a great deal of turnover in terms of its hired city manager. And, Dormont has elected some new board members too. So, all that are on the board now are NOT part of the long-term problem. But they are left to face the fire from the citizens who are upset. And, to a large degree they too what was due to them.

Second, some on the board are aware of the need for the pool and want to build something better there. A multi-community center, with a pool, is an option, perhaps, it seems, if we are to give them some trust. Ho humm.... time will tell. But, there isn't any money, poor us.

Third, some in the community are married to the re-creation of the Dormont Pool -- as it is. There is a historical charm to the existing pool, its configuration, its expanse of water. Some folks want to re-build the pool -- and keep it just like it was.

So, there isn't much hope of getting a real vision of what needs to be done and how to do it from that group that night. Some were angry. Everyone was frustrated.

I spoke about 'stewardship.' I said, the "stewardship stunk." But, that is looking into the rear view mirror. However we can't go forward on this problem until there is some accountability and understanding of the past. We need to agree what has happened has happened. So, I feel the dis-connect is something that needs to be resolved.

Later, some on the board took exception to the 'stewardship' remark and said that they did 're-paint the pool' -- they did make modifications in the past (I think it was a railing or something). They did make an investment in the pump room before.

Real stewardship means having a capital fund. There is no fund with money set aside to make repairs or even to use for a loan process. Real stewardship means insurance in case any physical damage happens. Real stewards would have been taking part of the deck apart each year for five years to re-do the cement, the pipes, the cracks, the leaks. A process of on-going re-building of that old pool was not done.

Of course the band-aid on an old building was mentioned again and again. And, it is fitting.

The same story was part of the Save Our Summer efforts. We had Elsie Hillman and Dr. Bill Truehart raising big money to put a band-aid on a corpse. The city's public pools (32 outdoors) all closed the year before. Some cash was obtained to get some money to open 10 or 12 pools. The others still sit and rot. And, the ones that are open are held together by band-aids to this day.

The water bill for Dormont's pool last summer was reported at $44,000. Ouch. The water dropped four-inches a day. I'm sure a good bit of that was evaoporation as well.

The pool is massive and the chemical bill is huge as well. And, same too with the number of guards that are needed to staff the facility. I think they needed 33 guards.

Parking is a problem too. You always got to talk about parking when you are talking about anything in Pittsburgh. The swim pool parking lot isn't big enough so folks spill over to the shopping center to park on busy days. So, the pool can hurt the bottom line of some businesses.

I do like it that Green Tree may and Mt. Lebo may sell pool passes to those who live in Dormont for the same rates as residents of those communities. Both Green Tree and Mt. Lebo have nice pools and both can take an influx of people -- and new pass incomes too. Seniors used to swim for free in Dormont -- and that can't happen any longer. Seniors everywhere else pay.

But the pool pass option should go for a wider group. What about deals with Allegheny County (South Park and Settlers Cabin are not too far), Sandcastle, Pittsburgh, Scott Township and even Brentwood. ???

Furthermore, Keyston Oaks High School serves Dormont students. K.O. used to have a part-time aquatics director. She was released from that job. It would be great if some of the funds that have been raised ($3400) by the citizen effort was re-deployed for pool time and instruction at the indoor pool in the high school.

Western Pa has a lot of fine indoor school pools that are wasted assets in the weeks in the summer. Some are idle too much in the fall, winter and spring as well. But, that is another matter.

One other point of mention -- Government Money. Allegheny County Exec. Director, Dan Onorato, seems to have said that he'd try to work with Allegheny County Council and come up with $75,000 if needed as a local match if another $75K could come from Ed Rendell. But Wayne Fontana, D., PA Senate in the 42nd (a guy I ran against and will run against in the future) has teamed with Tom Petrone, D., state Rep, up for re-election too, to ask Ed "slots" Rendell for $3-million.

You never know.

Rendell gave nearly 10-million to Midland for an arts center recently. I think much less could have gone to pay for the heater for the Passion Play, Veronica's Veil. But, we'll see how much money is to be tossed around.

What if Isle of Capri was able to pay $3-million on top of the new $290-million for the new ice arena for the Penguins?

Just think, we'd be able to get about 100 new swim pools all around Allegheny County, at $3-million each, if we only asked Isle of Capri to change its windfall funding away from NHL Hockey and Luxery Boxes to community swim pools.

There is more to say with more details and facts too. But, Dormont is going to be dry this summer. And, with the crisis comes and opportunity. Too bad the council did not take the crisis and form a sub-committee to tackle the problem at its meeting this week -- nor announce it in the press release yesterday.

People have a right to be skeptical.

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