Peters Township Council awards contract for aquatics center design

Harry Funk

The eventual opening of an aquatics center at the future site of Peters Township’s Rolling Hills Park took another step forward Monday with the award of a contract for design services.

Township council approved the agreement with Kimmel Bogrette, Blue Bell, Montgomery County, to provide a conceptual plan, market assessment and the development of a business plan for $65,500. Fees for design development and construction administration are 7.25% of overall construction costs based on a budget of up to $9 million, according to the cost proposal submitted by the firm.

As generally has been the case in votes pertaining to the aquatics center, council members Jim Berquist, Frank Kosir Jr., Robert Lewis and chairman David Ball were in favor. Frank Arcuri and Monica Merrell opposed, and Gary Stiegel Jr. abstained.

Merrell said if Kimmel Bogrette’s budget estimate turns out to be accurate, the township would end up paying the firm between $645,500 and $718,000.

Regarding when swimmers can expect to start using a Peters Township pool, Kimmel Bogrette submitted a proposed project schedule calling for construction on the aquatics center to begin in May and its opening to the public on Memorial Day 2022.

“They’re anxious to get going on this because they believe that if, in fact, we’re going to move ahead with this for next construction season, they need direction from us,” township manager Paul Lauer said.

At the firm’s suggestion, he formed a design committee that includes himself and Michele Harmel, parks and recreation director, as members from the municipal staff. The parks and recreation board has four members, and on Monday, Ball appointed Berquist, Kosir and Lewis to represent council on the committee.

The chairman originally tabbed Arcuri, who declined and then gave some of his thoughts about the project, saying he is not opposed to a pool, but rather the price tag for a “Taj Mahal” of a facility.

“For the money that we’re going to spend on this, we could build probably the rest of the projects in the park,” he said, referencing the series of amenities listed in the master plan for the municipal half of the former Rolling Hills Country Club property.

Arcuri also expressed doubts about “an asset that you’re going to use three or four months a year” and questioned the township’s ability to break even in admissions and memberships against seasonal operating costs. Lauer has acknowledged the capital costs of building such facilities never are recouped.

According to longtime township officials, a public pool has been near the top of residents’ wish lists for at least the past three decades. A survey completed last year showed a strong interest, but Merrell said she wonders if opinions have changed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The action that they’re saying they would do is not necessarily what comes to fruition when the rubber hits the road,” she said. “And my concern is that $10 million could do a lot more for infrastructure improvements than a pool.”