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Dormont must address leaking, locker room repairs at pool

By Al Lowe
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dormont officials are reluctant to say it, but it seems unlikely their landmark swimming pool will open on Memorial Day.

It might not open at all.

“I won’t say that yet,” Interim Manager Russell McKibben said after a special council meeting called last week to hear reports on the leaking pool and structural problems in the locker rooms at the complex at McFarland Road and Dwight Avenue.

Making the presentation were engineers from Gateway Engineers, a Green Tree firm hired to assess the situation.

“The work [to stop the pool’s leaking and to repair the recreation center] needs to be done or you shouldn’t open the pool,” borough engineer Ruthann Omer said.

Council members told the audience of more than 30 people that it planned to work with the community to try to resolve the problem.

Gateway reported to council that it would cost about $2 million to replace concrete and make piping repairs to stop the leaking. The pool loses 3 to 4 inches of water a day during operation; it should lose a half- inch a day to evaporation.

Another problem, structural deficiencies at the recreation center/locker room which would cost $635,000 to repair, caused Councilman John Sparvero to wonder if the second floor of the center could be rented to groups this summer, as council had planned.

Wayne Jacobs, of Gateway Engineers, said he had to study the problem more closely before making a recommendation on that.

Improvements that have to be made to the building include replacing planks supporting the floor of the men’s and women’s locker rooms, repairing or replacing beams in the filter room and installing a temporary support system while the building support columns are structurally analyzed and a repair method is planned.

Mr. McKibben said the borough could not float a bond to cover the cost of all the repairs. “Our indebtedness prevents us from borrowing that kind of money,” he said.

He had asked the engineers to evaluate the building and determine any structural deficiencies because few improvements have been made over the years. “If you want to shoot the messenger, go ahead,” he told the audience.

An option being considered is using a paint to act as a sealing agent to stop the leaking at what is expected to cost much less than $2 million; although that cost is not known. Gateway has asked Aqua Pool, a swimming pool contractor, to determine whether this is feasible.

The 60,000-square-foot pool holds 1.4 million gallons and is among the largest pools in the state. It received landmark designation from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in 2002.

But officials were forced to fill the pool with 8.1 million gallons last year. The cost was $42,000, twice as much as normal for the summer, Mr. McKibben said.

“We’re losing a phenomenal amount of money,” Mr. Sparvero said.

As usual, the pool, which is normally open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, was a money-losing proposition, as pools are for other South communities. The borough received $37,610 in pool pass sales and $92,252 in daily receipts. Utilities cost $85,000.

Other costs included general maintenance and repairs, including replacing pumps, at a cost of $25,000, using chemicals costing $33,000 and salaries of $71,000.

“You can see the whole situation is pretty upside down,” Councilwoman Ann Conlin said.

She chairs the recreation committee, which is scheduled to discuss the problems further at at a 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the municipal building.

The pool began as a wading pool in 1923 by damming a stream, according to records kept by the Dormont Historical Society.

It was developed to look like a tropical lake before a decision was made to hire contractor Scheiffer and Rait, of Dormont, to build a pool. The project was finished in 1928.

The pool and a wooden pool house were dedicated in 1929. Fine sand was added at that time to make the area resemble a beach.

The all-time attendance record was set in 1949 when a crowd of 5,000 came to the pool July 4.

During audience comments at the meeting March 14 Sarann Fisher, of Dormont, implored council, “The pool is the reason people pay taxes in Dormont. There has got to be a way to fix it.”

(Al Lowe is a freelance writer.)

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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