Aquatic center design

Design for an aquatic center as presented in the Rolling Hills Park master site development plan

McMURRAY – A yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing will give Peters Township residents an opportunity to express their opinions about plans to borrow some $20 million toward developing part of the former Rolling Hills Country Club property as a municipal park.

The hearing is likely to take place in late April or May, according to township manager Paul Lauer, in the Peters Township Middle School auditorium.

During their Monday night meeting, township council members agreed to schedule to hearing after raising the possibility at a workshop session the previous week.

At that point, a show of hands indicated four members in favor of and three opposed to moving ahead with park development options that have a “total projected capital cost” exceeding $21 million, including $10.8 million for an aquatic center.

Township residents long have cited a public swimming facility as a top desired amenity, a factor that Councilman David Ball addressed at the March 11 meeting.

“This is the history of this project. Everybody says, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I want a pool.’ Then when you tell them how much it’s going to cost, they say, ‘OK, so what?’ And then we say, ‘How would you like to pay for it? A tax increase? A bond issue?’ ‘Oh, no, no, no. We don’t want to do that.’”

Information presented at the workshop showed the example of a .2134-mill real estate tax increase, with the impact of $71.80 annually for the average township homeowner, based on an assessed value of $336,418.

Ball recommended that the financial implications be a focus of the upcoming hearing.

“I would hope that we can structure that meeting in such a way that we address specifically those issues, and then anyone who would like to address it, we’d be very happy to hear what people think,” he said.

The master site development plan for Rolling Hills Park contains options for a variety of potential aquatic park features, including a pool for children, water playground, bathhouse, picnic pavilions, concession pavilion and lap pool with either four or six lanes.

Lauer said he would arrange for representatives of the consulting companies that prepared the master plan – Mackin Engineering Co., Wallover Architects and Wallover Aquatics International – to present information and answer questions at the public hearing. Also invited to give their perspectives are operators of swimming pools in other communities in the region.

At the meeting, Councilman Frank Arcuri asked about the future impact of issuing bonds.

“What effect does that have on the township’s borrowing capabilities down the road? I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where we’re taking out $20 million worth of debt and then have some catastrophic situation arise,” he said.

Lauer assured him that Peters’ legal borrowing capacity “is far greater than that.”

The township already is committed to implementing projects associated with park development, most notably an access road that also will serve Peters Township School District’s half of the former country club property. A new high school is under construction, with plans to open late next year.

The poll of council at the workshop showed Ball, James Berquist, Frank Kosir Jr. wanting to proceed with the park project on a large scale, and Arcuri, Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel Jr. not in favor.

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.

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