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William L. Welch Community Swimming Pool Renewal - Master Site Plan

Public Forum Meeting Summary from Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007
at the COG Bldg. Forum Room, 2643 Gateway Drive, State College, PA

ATTENDANCE ROSTER:

CITIZENS:
James Myers, Harris Twp
M.J. Langston, SC Borough
Kathy Kalinosky, SC Borough
Betty Moore, SC Borough
Lindsey Fullmer, SC Borough
George Vlismas, SC Borough
Ginger Suhey, SC Borough
Kathy Suhey, SC Borough
Anne Kerber, SC Borough
Fiona Vashaw, SC Borough
Shawn Vashaw, SC Borough
Vivian Baumer, SC Borough
Michele Rowland, SC Borough
Rebecca Hirsch, SC Borough
Jim Pawelczyk, Ferguson Twp
Kim Ache, SC Borough
Kim Faulds, SC Borough
Sue Rogacs, SC Borough 

Joe Rogacs, SC Borough
Lori Paterno, SC Borough
Jean Najjar, SC Borough
Richard Mandel, Ferguson Twp
Alvi Voigt, College Twp
Chris Jones, SC Borough
Shannon Jones, SC Borough
Will Schmitt, Ferguson Twp
David Wasson, College Twp
CRRA:
Donna Conway, SC Borough
Roy Harpster, Harris Twp
Consultants:
Alan Popovich, HP Architects
Scot Hunsaker, Counsilman-Hunsaker
Todd Smith, ELA
CRPR Staff:
Ronald J. Woodhead, Director
Todd Roth, Aquatics Supervisor

          At 7:00 PM, Mr. Todd Roth, CRPR Aquatics Supervisor, welcomed everyone to the Public Meeting for Welch Swimming Pool Renewal. He presented a slide show about the pools and the operations. The Centre Region Parks & Recreation Authority owns and operates the two outdoor pools; the five municipalities (State College Borough, and the Townships of College, Ferguson, Harris, and Patton) provide part of the funding. He then reviewed the history of the pool, the operation figures from 2007, and the goals of this project. He indicated that an Aquatic Advisory Committee had been formed (for both pool renewals) that incorporates CRRA members, a School District representative, Welch Pool swim team parents, Park Forest swim team parents, and student swimmers. He stated that the Master Site Plan process would be paid by a $33,000 grant from the state and $33,000 from the five municipalities. The consultants were hired: HP Architects (Boalsburg), the lead on the project; Counsilman-Hunsaker Associates (St. Louis, MO) the aquatic consultants. HP Architects has also retained the ELA Group, Inc. (State College) for landscape architecture services and Reese Engineering (State College) for engineering services.

          Mr. Roth then introduced Scot Hunsaker, who presented a slide show with five conceptual options for the renewal of Welch pool across a wide range of program opportunities. This presentation, which can be viewed at the CRPR website, had details about the options and showed some of the details regarding the basis for many of the figures presented. During the presentation, other than clarification questions, the following points and questions were raised by the audience:

1. A question about ADA requirements - Mr. Hunsaker explained the requirements and how the pools would meet them, and that all plans include parking and pool accessibility for those patrons with such needs.

2. A question about the site boundary - Mr. Hunsaker showed the leased boundary and showed how it is different than the currently fenced area. He also explained that the next step in the process will involve putting the selected programming elements on the site.

3. A question about the use of the wooded area west of the bike path - Mr. Hunsaker explained that the design is not to a stage where any firm decisions have been made, but explained that the existence of the bike path and utility lines may make moving the path and using more of the wooded area less desirable.

4. A question about the term neighborhood pool vs. community pool - Mr. Hunsaker explained that based on use and volume, some of the concepts may only serve the immediate neighborhood around the pool, while others would serve the larger regional community.

5. A question about water depths in the conceptual plans - Mr. Hunsaker explained that they were all able to be changed and set to meet the needs of the community.

6. A question about the inclusion of a vending area versus a snack bar. Mr. Hunsaker showed that options four and five included a snack bar, while one, two and three did not. Snack bars become economically viable options only with a certain level of attendance at a facility.

7. A question about the 50 Meter pool and use. Mr. Hunsaker showed that having a 50 meter pool would meet a specific need for one group, while the pool would have the ability to be used width-wise for the needs that the pool serves now.

8. A question to clarify how pool capacities were calculated - Mr. Hunsaker showed the calculations for that.

9. A question about whether other area pools were included in the assessment of needs. Mr. Hunsaker showed that while some of the pools were included, many are not open to the public. A detailed look at all of the area pools will be included with the final report.

10. A question about the attendance at Welch versus Park Forest. Mr. Roth explained that Welch serves about 60% of the pool visits and Park Forest about 40% of the pool visits of the region.

11. A question about one big community pool versus several smaller neighborhood pools - Mr. Hunsaker explained that this is a philosophical question for the community, but that his charge was to look at a community facility at this site. Historically the CRRA has pooled resources from all five participating municipalities to serve the entire community with fewer facilities that can serve more people. Mr. Hunsaker also relayed that many children are not allowed the same freedoms to walk or ride their bike as far as they used to in order to get to a pool. Also, depending on which option is selected, there may be a future need (in 10 or 15 years) for a third community pool.

12. A question about the safety of recreational play features and insurance for the facilities - Mr. Hunsaker explained that these features have been on the market for 15+ years and that insurance companies are comfortable with them. Insurance figures are provided in the cost estimates for each option.

13. A question about increased personnel - Mr. Hunsaker showed that all options have figures for personnel charges that are specific to each concept and that use CRRA wage rates and staffing ideals based on work with the Parks & Rec staff.

14. A question about the possibility to raise season pass fees - Mr. Hunsaker relayed that it is recommended to raise fees somewhat to meet the fiscal needs of the Authority. Mr. Roth relayed that the fees are consistent with or lower than the State average and that scholarships are available for those with need. Mr. Hunsaker also relayed that pass fees can be adjusted, but that would change the capacity for the pool to pay for it’s own operating expenses.

15. A question about the size of the proposals - Mr. Roth shared that the leased area is larger than the currently fenced area.

Following Mr. Hunsaker’s presentation of five conceptual options, the following comments/ questions/ discussions occurred:

1. Shannon Jones believes that ‘less is more’ and that lower cost fun can be had without big plastic elements - a plain basic down to earth model. She also believes that the bath house needs to be replaced.

2. Betty Moore agrees that there is need for improvement with some up to date elements, especially with the baby pool. She would like to see additional lap lanes and would like to see some growth of the pool, but without many of the extra play elements.

3. Jo Bevilacqua likes the pool as it is, but is concerned with the pandemonium that comes when the summer camps visit the pool and what may happen with increased use. She would like 1-2 extra lap lanes, some attention to the baby pool, and would like to make sure that the youth swim team needs are met in terms of having the ends of the competitive pool deep enough for turns.

4. Jim Pawelczyk has been very happy with the success of the Park Forest project and hopes that a ‘Park in the Park’ concept, with swings or other “dry play” equipment, can be used here as well. He also questioned the vending versus snack bar numbers. Mr. Hunsaker explained that some of the concepts included a snack bar because it was asked for in the original meetings in July, but that most snack bars will not break even financially unless the facility brings in 60-70 thousand visits per summer.

5. Richard Mandel shared his observations that Park Forest was warm and Welch was cool. He saw that the shallow area at Welch was always very crowded, but that the 5' area was wasted because there was little or no use during the day. He shared that Park Forest’s pool was better configured for overall use with more shallow water area and a separate diving well, and that other pools around the country that he has seen have had much higher use in the 3'6" to 4' range.

6. Jim Myers sees this project as an opportunity in that what we decide over the next few months will last for the next 50 years. He felt that options 1, 2 and 3 were stagnant or backward- moving designs, and that options 4 & 5, even with a larger price tag, would allow the community to move forward for swim teams, wellness, lessons, and recreational use. He shared that having a 50 meter pool would allow for the most flexibility for programming and use over the next half century.

7. Chris Jones thinks a good solution would be something in between options 1 & 2. Some smart adjustments could keep costs in check, and options 3, 4 and 5 will go too far. He does not want an “amusement park” atmosphere.

8. Sue Rogacs did not like the snack bar that was there in prior years, and would prefer to have people bring their own (healthier) snacks. She is also concerned about the overall costs and thinks that we should set an overall cost first, then work out programming details.

9. Joe Rogacs asked where the attendance numbers came from. Mr. Hunsaker explained the basis for the figures, including available water surface area, recreation amenities, local population, weather, and their firm’s experience from over 500 municipal facilities. Mr. Hunsaker also explained the dilemma of serving the needs of the immediate neighborhood versus those of the overall community and that it is possible to build a facility that nobody will come to, and that the attractiveness of the facility will depend on the programming and features available.

10. Rebecca Hirsch felt that the community had no problem with kids hanging out a Wal-Mart or other locations due to a lack of better amenities, and pointed out that the assembled group cared enough to come out to this meeting and she hoped that their comments would be weighted accordingly. She questioned whether a facility would be built that would draw in new people at the expense of the current users’ preferences. She would like smaller features, the "park in a park" concept, diving boards, and a pool that maximizes water surface area.

11. Kim Faulds worries about the danger of ‘under-building’ for the needs of the community. She shared the excitement of 8-11 year old children at and their friends about the options shown in the newspaper and wants to have a facility that kids can get excited about. She wants a facility that is interactive, has options, and has lap swimming available while kids are in the pool. She hopes that we can build an exciting facility that can engage kids of all ages.

12. Kathy Suhey wonders if we can provide a similar facility to what we have now, with some minor improvements, and save the bigger features for another (3rd) community pool that could be build somewhere with more land.

13. Shawn Vashaw likes the idea of adding more lap lanes, and likes the 50 meter option. His 10 year old daughter wants more fun stuff, and bigger and better features. He also pointed out the use of the diving well for deep water exploration, not just diving boards, and hopes that this may be a continued option of any new pool. He would trade recreational features for more water surface area.

14. Al Voigt cited the CDT article from July about the last public meeting. He wants more water with no bells & whistles and asked about the option to just renovate. He believes that there are still re-usable structures at the facility and asked ‘why be state-of-the-art?’

15. Vivian Baumer requested more features, bigger and better than what we have now. She wants to keep 12-18 year olds interested in coming to the pool, which we lack currently. She feels that we need a facility that grows and that will serve for the next 50 years.

16. Betty Moore suggested research in our schools to find out why some children do not currently visit the pool.

17. Kathy Kalinosky asked about 25 yard vs. 25 meter for competition. Mr. Hunsaker clarified the standard race courses in the US and explained why 25 yard is suggested. Ms. Kalinosky thinks that 8 lanes is an improvement and hopes for enough depth for flip turns. She wants to keep the diving boards, and wants to keep 2-3 lanes for lap swimming all day, if an 8 lane pool allows for that. She is concerned about the volume of concrete decking in terms of keeping cool, about the separation of the pools for those who keep track of multiple children, and likes the zero beach entry concept. She would rather bring her own food than have a snack bar if she had to choose, but suggested having a snack bar with limited operating hours, such as just over the dinner hours. She want the toddler pool to be more recreational, without ‘squirty’ things or umbrellas, wants to add water slides, and wants to expand the 3-4 foot water depth area. She also hopes that the new showers have better temperature controls and a mechanism for staying on without having to hold the handle. Mr. Hunsaker explained the advantage of having separate pools for both safety and cleanliness reasons.

18. Jean Najjar suggested building a snack bar, then allowing outside or volunteer/charitable groups to come in and sell concessions. She likes the versatility of the 50 meter pool if some of the options can be slimmed down.

19. Jim Pawelczyk stated that the 50 meter pool will give us enormous programming opportunity and flexibility. He also brought up issues surrounding pool depths. Mr. Hunsaker explained current trends in acceptable minimum diving depths for competitive swimming around the country, as well as the options available in comparing deeper water for competition versus shallower water for recreation.

20. Jo Bevilacqua said that after hearing other comments, she was swayed to the 50 meter concept with varied depth - such as one end deep for diving boards, a middle area for lap & competition swimming, and a shallow end for recreation and play.

Mr. Hunsaker and Mr. Roth thanked everyone for coming, and reminded the group that they could find renewal updates and information at the CRPR website and could email staff at crpr@crcog.net with further input. The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 PM.

This Meeting Summary was prepared by Todd Roth troth@crcog.net , CRPR Aquatics Supervisor, and is based upon a digital audio recording of the meeting and from the sign-in sheet for attendees.

Posted 1 Oct 07

Click HERE to view the correspondence received regarding this subject.

The CRPR Authority is a publicly-funded, municipal agency serving 5 municipalities. The Authority also maintains 501c3 status.
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