Lehigh Valley

Allentown Council approves new playground for Jordan Park

Will debate new pool fees in coming weeks

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The "tired" playground in Allentown's Jordan Park will have to make it through one more summer.

And swimmers at Jordan and the city's other three pools may face some price increases this summer.

Both issues came up at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, although there was no discussion about proposed rate changes for the 2014 swimming season. Council will review and act on those changes in the coming weeks.

A new playground will be erected in Jordan Park, but not until June 2015, predicted John Mikowychok, the city's parks and recreation director.

He said the park's existing playground was built in 1995 and is "really showing its wear. It's a tired playground.

"It gets pounded, it gets used very heavily during the summer .It has seen its share of use and children enjoying it. There's nothing wrong with that."

Mikowychok said the playground is still functional, although a couple of cracked slides can't be replaced. He later explained one of those plastic slides is blocked off and can't be used.

He told council the community will be involved in the project because there is less vandalism when people take more ownership of a playground.

The project will cost about $116,000.

The city is applying for a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to provide half that total cost.

City Council unanimously approved applying for that grant.

"DCNR has indicated that this is going to receive priority funding,"
said the parks director. "We have full confidence they are going to fund this project, along with several others."

He said DCNR also plans to replace playgrounds in five other Pennsylvania cities-Bethlehem, Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Erie.

Mikowychok said the other $58,000 will come from city and/or Trexler Trust funds.

He estimated the actual play structure will cost $75,000-$85,000.

Mikowychok said the city has been working with DCNR and Kaboom, a national playground advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., which helps communities design and build playgrounds.

He explained Kaboom has access to three-D computer modeling so people will be able to see what the new playground will look like before it is built.

He indicated plans will be shared with the Jordan Park community next February.

City resident Paulette Hunter immediately volunteered to participate in the playground planning. She wants to ensure it includes play equipment that can be used by handicapped children.

The parks director said the city does not yet have a particular model in mind for the new play structure, explaining that will be part of the design planning process. He said the units are available with elevated decks and attachments.

"The community will pick which components they prefer," he said.

The playground structure probably will be erected on a Saturday in June 2015, with the help of neighbors.

The parks director said students from the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute will help with construction, such as masonry work that will have to be done before the playground unit is erected.

"All this stuff has to be anchored to a good footing," said Mikoywchok. "The concrete will be poured earlier that week."

He said the renovation also will include walkways around three sides of the playground, trees, signs, benches, trash receptacle and designated handicapped parking next to the playground.

Swings just north of the existing play structure will remain.

Some pool admissions increasing

Allentown's administration is asking City Council to approve some increased admissions for this summer's swimming season.

The administration maintains costs for pool maintenance, water chemistry and lab testing are expected to increase substantially this year, but fees have not increased since 2005.

It is proposing price increases to help cover those operating costs.

City officials anticipate their proposed fee increases will generate an additional $46,900 a year - from $162,600 to $209,500.

After being introduced but not discussed, the pool fees bill was referred to council's parks and recreation committee for a recommendation back to the full council.

That committee's next meeting will be 6 p.m. April 16, according to Cynthia Mota, its chairwoman.

The administration proposes raising daily pool admissions by 50 cents at the Cedar, Mack and Jordan pools - from $5.50 to $6 for anyone ages
18-59 and from $3.50 to $4 for children ages 4-17.

Kids'prices previously did not include four and five-year-olds.

Daily admission to the Irving Pool in east Allentown will increase from $1 to $2, if City Council approves that rate increase.

But adult season tickets at the Cedar, Mack and Jordan pools will drop from $75 to $50.
Youth season tickets also will cost $50.

Season tickets for seniors as well as veterans and active military will be $25.

The city never before offered a discount for veterans or military personnel.

The $25 senior season ticket also is new. The city did not charge seniors before, but officials maintain comparable municipalities all charge seniors -- except Whitehall Township, where seniors swim for free.

Season tickets for non-residents of all ages will cost $80, except seniors, who will pay $50.

Family passes for those three pools will be $150 for residents, $300 for non-residents. Those passes are for four people, with a maximum of two adults. Additional children could be added at a reduced rate.

Research suggests that 69 percent of surveyed residents feel non-residents should pay a higher rate, according to information the administration provided to council.

The administration also proposes eliminating free season passes for people claiming a disability, on the grounds that such disabilities are difficult to determine.

Other news

Also during the meeting:

* Another new bill introduced to council would expand parking enforcement regulations to run from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, increase fines for parking inoperable or illegally registered vehicles, expanding acceptable forms of payment and modify notice of violation provisions.

That bill was referred to council's public works committee, which will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Council member Jeanette Eichenwald suggested breaking those issues up into separate bills, because "some of those issues we might agree with and some we may not. But right now it's all under one bill."

Her suggestion will be discussed at next week's committee meeting.

* Council approved erection of a 120-foot tall cellular tower on city land at 1325 Oxford Drive, which will be leased to Crown Castle. That property near Queen City Ariport is the site of the city's recycling center. A fenced-in compound will be at the base of the tower.

* Council unanimously approved appointing Jeff Glazier to the Allentown Planning Commission.

He will serve until Jan. 1, 2017, completing the term of Martin Velazquez, who resigned.

Glazier was appointed to fill a vacancy on City Council in October 2012 and served through December 2013.

He also served on the Allentown School Board from 1999-2011, including six years as president, and on the Allentown Public Library board from 2005-2011.

* Craig Messinger was introduced to council as Allentown's new acting public works director.

Messinger, the former deputy public works director, replaces Richard Young, who recently resigned as public works director to take the same position in Northampton County.

Messinger has been employed by the city for 25 years.

Council vice president Ray O'Connell told Messinger he is very well respected in the city.

This Week's Circulars

Lehigh Valley News

Latest From The Newsroom