Park improvements, turf back on Lebo agenda

Published Nov 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm (Updated Nov 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm)

Athletic fields and parks are once again set to dominate the Mt. Lebanon commission’s agenda. On Nov. 12 the commission heard two significant project proposals, one for turfing Middle and Wildcat fields and another for improvements to Robb Hollow Park and the municipality’s public works space.

According to commissioner Kelly Fraasch, the park is currently in a state of relative disrepair. She said Robb Hollow park’s condition is the number one issue outside her ward that residents raise to her. They complain the area is an eyesore, that secluded areas are used for crime and other mischief, and that certain areas of the park are used as a dumping ground.

“We don’t allow this to happen to our other parks,” Fraasch said.

She proposed a $700,000 project to clean up the area and create a dog park out of part of the space, as well as a space for an outdoor classroom. Of this, $455,000 would come from unassigned funds. The balance would come from private sources. Fraasch emphasized that only private money would be used to fund the dog park. Cost estimates were based on past studies.

Her proposed time line would have the space cleared by 2014, with topsoil and seeding underway.

The municipality currently uses a significant portion of the space for storing contractor materials and equipment for public works projects.

Commissioner Dave Brumfield said, “I would like to see a recommendation for what public works thinks it needs. The fact is public works created that space because they needed it.”

Mt. Lebanon is currently in the process of evaluating the entire public works space in terms of needs and possible improvements. Consensus across the commission was to have current consultants evaluate commissioner Fraasch’s proposal alongside other considerations before moving forward.

Municipal recreation director David Donnellan then presented the proposal for the turf project.

According to his estimates, total cost over 16 years would be about $1.5 million. He said the recreation department had estimated a 60 percent increase in field use as a result of the project. The municipality would pay about 64 percent of the total cost, primarily through the use of leftover 2013 fund balance and possible funds from the 2014 budget. The balance of the funds would come from private sources.

Donnellan said the school district was open to paying for regular maintenance, which would save the municipality about $220,000.

The time line he presented would have the commission vote on the proposal at the Nov. 25 meeting.

Previous efforts at turfing athletic fields have all failed in recent years. Most recently, in October the commission rejected bids for turfing Brafferton Field when they came in too high, at more than $500,000. Donnellan said this project could be cheaper as field infrastructure such as restrooms and concession stands are already in place. Lights were not included in the project but they could be added later.

The turf would have to be replaced every eight years, however, at an estimated cost of about $600,000. Donnellan said he believed user fees and sponsorships could cover that cost. The initial $1.5 million outlay he presented includes the first round of replacement turf.

In discussing the proposal, commissioner Fraasch accused Dave Brumfield of blindsiding her with the proposal.

“When did you know about this?” she asked.

“I have not had this information any longer than you did,” Brumfield replied. “This is an issue that has been ongoing. We have been discussing this since January. Sometimes these things move quickly.”

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