Peters Township Council voted Monday to have a market study conducted before proceeding with plans for an outdoor aquatic facility at Rolling Hills Park.
Frank Kosir Jr., council chairman, joined Frank Arcuri, David Ball, James Berquist and Robert Lewis in favoring the study. Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel voted against.
The study represents a continuation of research started by Campos, a Strip District-based marketing consultant firm that had been hired by the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. The cost to complete it is $32,000, according to township manager Paul Lauer.
The township’s master plan for developing Rolling Hills Park, on 90-plus acres of the former Rolling Hills Country Club property off East McMurray Road, calls for the inclusion of an aquatic center on about 10 acres. The current estimate for its construction is almost $11 million.
Council held a public hearing on April 29 to gauge opinion about when the township should embark on the center, citing favorable borrowing rates as a potential incentive to start soon.
Comments at the hearing, though, tended to reflect opinions about whether the township should invest in a pool and related amenities at all, with roughly a 50-50 split among the residents who spoke.
Three residents who addressed council members at their May 13 meeting provided reasons for favoring an aquatic facility.
The market study will provide information on aspects such as how many residents of Peters and nearby municipalities would use the facility and how much they’d be willing to pay, which in turn could help township officials determine whether revenues might cover annual operational and maintenance expenses.
Lauer has continued to maintain that the outlay for construction would not be recoverable.
The two council members who voted against the study offered the suggestion that the aquatic facility be built by a private developer, as opposed to the township footing the capital cost and future expenses.
“I think that should be our next step, to explore a nationwide RFP for some developer who would be willing to take on that kind of project,” Stiegel said, referencing a township-issued request for proposals.
Kosir expressed doubt about the practicality of such a direction.
“If we’re going to do something like that, whoever comes in and does that isn’t just going to want to build a pool,” he said. “They’re going to want to build a bigger facility. They’re going to want a larger spot to the park than what we’ve set aside for this facility.”
In Arcuri’s opinion, the decision on committing to an aquatic center should be based primarily on economics.
“Unfortunately, I don’t feel that you should make decisions with taxpayers’ money based on what the majority of people think,” he said. “It’s not a beauty contest. It’s not who gets the most votes.”
He also expressed concern about a pool’s ability to generate sufficient revenue.
“If you’re going to spend $11 million and you’re going to lose money on it, I don’t think that’s fair to the people who are on fixed incomes or are never going to use the facility,” he asserted. “We’ve always talked, for years, about having facilities for older residents in the township, and none of it’s there.”