That controversial “Swimming Towards the Future” report also recommended major overhauls costing about $2.5 million at both Mack and Jordan Park pools and spending up to $4.6 million to rebuild the Cedar Beach pool.
Mikowychok believes attempting to turn Cedar Beach into a destination pool, as that study recommended, would have put it in competition with Dorney’s nearby Wildwater Kingdom. He said he would rather see taxpayers’ money used to construct other quality pools.
The “Swimming Towards the Future” study reported the city’s aging pools need repairs totaling at least $4.5 million. And it warned that estimate is only “30 percent of the cost to completely rebuild each facility as new.”
Mikowychok said the typical life expectancy of a city pool is 25-30 years
Allentown’s newest pool, Mack on the South Side, is 51 years old. Irving Street pool is 74 years old. The Cedar and Jordan pools are 62 years old and the closed Fountain pool is 58 years old.
Mikowychok said “30 years is about the most you can hope for” because of the corrosive effects of chlorinated water on drains and plumbing.
“Can they last longer than that? Yes. And we don’t have indications of any serious water leaks. It’s probably safe to say the pools are holding up, even though they are past what their typical life span is.”
While the other city pools had their filtration systems upgraded over the years, Mikowychok he said the filtration system at Mack pool dates back to 1962, the year that pool opened.
New pools not top pool priority
Mikowychok said the top priority for Allentown’s pools is to upgrade the filtration system at Mack, because that is the heart of what keeps a pool open. “If you don’t have clean water, you cannot open a pool.”
Mack actually has three swimming pools. He said a rough estimate of the cost to replace that filtration system – “all the fixtures that pump, treat and disinfect the water” --would be more than $30,000.
“We think that system will make it through the summer, but it’s got to be done soon.”
Mikowychok said the $220 million lease of the city’s water and sewer systems will mean adjustments to the city budget, which he hopes will result in capital allocations for 2014 that at least include funds to redo Mack’s filtration system and possibly design new pools.
But he added: “I don’t envision us constructing a new pool in 2014. That would be unrealistic. You have to design it first.”
Not only are Allentown’s last four pools wearing out, but they don’t meet federal requirements for handicapped accessibility.
“The city knows it needs to make improvements to be in full compliance,” said Mikowychok. “The city is working to get into compliance.
“We spent just under $28,000 this year to put in five lifts at four pools, so we have at least one at every major pool. We had to put two in at Mack, which are in two separate pools. The ultimate goal is to have two lifts at every facility.”
He said the lifts are hydraulically operated seats that lower users into the water by pushing a button. “They’re completely independent. They don’t have to hail a lifeguard and wait five minutes if they want to get out of the pool.”
He said the city needs five or six more lifts for its pools, but will not get them this year.
He hopes officials who enforce the Americans With Disabilities Act “recognize the city is taking affirmative action to make its facilities compliant. Are we there yet? No. Will we be there in a year? Probably not, because there are many ADA issues with our bathhouse buildings, including restrooms, and main entrances. We have a way to go. But we will get to them.”
He said the pools have steel ramps, but they are not ADA complaint because their slopes are too steep for wheelchairs. He said the new lifts take up much less space than ramps in the pools.
Mikowychok said the city has not been fined for not being fully complaint with ADA requirements, adding it is a pipe dream for anyone to assume any municipality can afford to immediately meet all those federal mandates. “Whether we’ll be in compliance in two years or five, I honestly can’t say.”
On Wednesday night, Allentown managing director Francis Dougherty told City Council that the city has started its compliance with ADA regulations with the five lifts “and we will continue to make strides within budgetary limits to further this compliance.”