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Splash pad built as Mingo Junction finances crumble

September 16, 2012
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

MINGO JUNCTION - The cost of the splash pad for children at Aracoma Park has exceeded the money set aside and the state will not give the village permits to open it.

Village Council in November 2010 voted to spend $250,000 out of the community complex fund for the splash pad. The fund receives money from income tax.

The baby pool at the park had a major leak and was in need of replacement. The state now requires a filtration system separate from the main pool. The old baby pool was grandfathered in, and didn't have to comply with the new state regulations.

Article Photos

Mark Law
SPLASH PAD — Mingo Junction is still waiting for the approval of state permits for the construction of a splash pad that has cost the village $280,000. Additional work will push the price tag even higher. Village Council is studying cutbacks throughout the village, including turning most of the streetlights off and possibly curtailing operations at the senior center. The village will run out of money come October in the account to purchase fuel for village trucks.

The cost of the splash pad has reached $280,000, and there is still more work to be done, according to officials.

The cost of the equipment for the splash was $119,000. CT Consultants charged the village $49,000 for the engineering and Cattrell Cos. of Toronto was awarded a $96,000 contract to install the equipment. Cattrell since has been paid $115,000 with extra work needed.

Council Clerk John Angelica said the village will have a hard time ending the year in the black because of a decline in the village's income tax collections due to the closing of the RG Steel plant.

Village Council in December voted 4-2 to award a contract to Cattrell Cos. of Toronto to install the pool. Three of the four council members who voted on the contract were set to leave office two weeks later.

Weirton installed a splash zone for kids at Starvaggi Park last summer at a cost of about $90,000, said Kevin Elias, program director at the city's Millsop Center. Toronto also installed a splash pad about four years ago at a cost of $80,000, according to city Mayor John Geddis.

Elias said most of the labor on the Weirton project was done by city workers or volunteers. The city did hire an architect who got plans approved by the state. The splash zone in Weirton refilters water so the park doesn't have to pay for as much water, it was noted.

Geddis said Toronto didn't have an engineer but got a lot of technical help from the manufacturer of the equipment.

"It is not rocket science to install the equipment," he said.

Geddis said the work was done by city workers, including the city electrician. He said the splash pad doesn't have a filter to recycle water because the city has its own water plant. He noted the filters require a lot of maintenance and added the kids drink the water as it is coming out of the splash pad stations.

Geddis said he doesn't understand why Mingo Junction decided to install such a large splash pad, considering the village's declining population.

Geddis did say the splash pad is great for Toronto kids.

"Since it has been open, the attendance at the pool has been up. It has been a real added feature," he said.

Frank Fuscardo, Mingo Junction administrator, said the village's splash pad has a filter to recycle the water, even though the village has its own water plant. But Fuscardo, who announced on Tuesday he is resigning. said the village can't afford the splash pad considering its financial condition.

An internal memo from CT Consultants said the engineering firm initially didn't want to install a filter system but the previous village administration said not to consider it because the village was considering selling its water system.

Fuscardo said the filter system is about one-half of the total cost of the splash pad equipment.

Selling the village's water system was never mentioned during public meetings at the time.

Mayor Ronald DiCarlo and Fuscardo earlier this year tried to halt the splash pad project and even asked the manufacturer of the splash pad equipment how much the village could get by returning the equipment. Fuscardo said the company initially would only give back one-half of the cost, but then said it wouldn't allow the return at all.

Some of the cost overruns on the project came as a result of site preparation work done under the previous village administration. And Fuscardo said slag and other fill for the base of the splash pad were installed, but the contractor determined the material wasn't adequate for the concrete pad. He said it cost the village $5,180 to dig it up and $1,500 for new base materials.

The prior village administration told CT Consultants to remove electrical work and fencing from the bidding documents, but it had to be added to Cattrell's cost anyway, at a total of more than $13,000.

The state won't issue a permit to open the splash pad, which was scheduled for this summer, village officials said.

The state said there are incomplete construction plans.

Fuscardo said Cattrell and CT Consultants have until Thursday to appeal that state's decision not to issue a permit. The actual construction permit expires in February.

"Both sides are pointing the finger at each other," Fuscardo said about trying to get the corrections made to get the state permit issued.

CT Consultants original bill for the design work was $36,000. CT is paid an hourly rate by the village, officials said.

Some communities pay an engineer based on a percentage of the total construction cost, usually about 15 percent.

Fuscardo said the previous village administration changed the plans for the splash pad so many times that the engineering cost jumped to $48,000. Fuscardo said CT Consultants wanted to charge the village an additional $11,000 to oversee construction.

CT believed the company performed the work asked by the village and was entitled to the money, it was noted. But DiCarlo and Fuscardo had a meeting with CT officials in the spring to complain about the engineering costs being so high. CT then decided to waive the $11,000 in construction supervision fees, Fuscardo said

Former Councilwoman Judy Ruckman was one of the four coucil members who voted in December to move forward with the splash pad project in December. Ruckman lost the May 2011 Democratic primary election to be mayor. Her term on council ended in December.

Ruckman said council weighed whether to replace the baby pool, with a new filtration system, or go with a more modern splash pad for kids. She said the splash pad doesn't require lifeguards.

She said she doesn't understand how the cost has increased from the original estimate.

"Where the ball got dropped I don't know, and now the cost is crazy. Nobody was minding the house. We have a consulting firm to do that. Everyone is pointing the fingers at each other," she said.

Ruckman said a comparison between the village's splash pad and other splash pads can't be made. She said the village's splash pad is large and "way more" elaborate than Toronto's.

Ruckman defended the decision to take money out of the community complex fund to build the splash pad. She said residents were paying into the complex fund for years.

"The park is considered a community complex. It is for the people. I stood by it then and I stand by it now," she said.

Ruckman said she believes Mingo Junction's future is to become a bedroom community and added the village has to offer something to get people to locate in the village.

"We have good schools and a nice park. Something has to be done to get people to locate here," she said.

But Councilman James Morrocco, who was one of two on council to vote against granting the construction contract for the splash pad, said, "It was ludicrous to spend that kind of money based on the village's finances. It is an exorbitant amount of money to spend on something that is only used three months out of the year."

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