Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem City Council approves additional Memorial Pool costs

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem City Council agreed to reallocate additional funds for the refurbishment of Memorial Pool, after bids the city received had exceeded what was originally budgeted.

The 5-2 vote on Tuesday night on the bill's second and final reading ensures the project will break ground this summer. Voting against the bill were Councilwomen Paige Van Wirt and Olga Negron.

Bill No. 25 specifically increases 2019 Capital Budget allocation line item "Memorial Pool Complex" from $4,498,000 to $4,943,000. It also changes two sources of revenue line items as well. A "Cash Balance" amount was increased from $4,543,000 to $4,613,000, and "Recreation Fees" were increased from $750,000 to $1,125,000.

"I think it is responsible," President Adam Waldron said of reallocating more money for the project. "… I think it will be successful."

"It's our duty," Councilman Bryan Callahan said. "… Let's get the pool done."

The pool, which is currently closed, is expected to cost about $5.2 million to upgrade. During the budgeting process, the city scaled back some costlier initial features. It included reducing a lap pool from eight lanes to six lanes.

"What remains still makes it an attractive pool," Councilman Michael Colon said of the current project.

In voting against the measure, Van Wirt said she was not satisfied the administration had provided an adequate overall financial picture of other pools. Van Wirt added that she expects swimming pools to "lose money," and that their benefit to the community mitigates the loss. Nevertheless, she added she could not vote for the additional funds without having a better idea of the city's entire swimming pool maintenance needs and strategy to address them.

In other business, the council received an update from Bethlehem Parking Authority officials on a proposed new garage, which would be located at Polk and Third streets in the city's South Side.

Kevin Livingston, the authority's executive director, said the initial plans call for a total of 470 spaces over six levels, with another 91 spots on a potential seventh floor. Officials added that the authority could close on a loan later this summer, with construction potentially beginning in December and completed by December 2020. However, that time table could lengthen pending the outcome of various designations and approvals.

"This has a lot of moving parts," Waldron said.

Van Wirt questioned the project's validity Tuesday night.

"I think this is risky," she said after posing several questions to authority officials. "Demand in the South Side is soft."

Livingston said he will keep the council abreast of the project's advancement. No vote on the potential garage was taken by the council Tuesday night.

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