The Ligonier Township Supervisors during the board’s reorganization meeting Monday established a committee of 10 members tasked with helping to determine the future of the Ligonier Beach property.
Supervisors Scott Matson and Daniel Weimer were appointed to the Ligonier Beach Park Development Committee, along with township planning commission members Sheila Grimm and Mickey Corb, recreation board members Larry Shew and Robert Gangawere, Ligonier Borough representative Ormond “Butch” Bellas and township residents Julie Donovan, Melissa Eller and Mark Sorice.
The supervisors at Monday’s reorganization meeting also settled on a new engineering firm for both the Ligonier Beach development project and the township’s general engineering needs, selecting the EADS Group and engineers Ben Faas and Jake Bolby to serve in that capacity.
The township’s public works committee reviewed three firms as finalists for the appointment. The township will pay its new engineers between $123 and $133 per hour, plus a flat rate of $125 per meeting.
The EADS Group also serves as the Ligonier Township Municipal Authority’s engineer for its water system.
Now that the township owns the historic swimming pool and restaurant on Route 30 near Laughlintown, the formation of the development committee is the next step toward reopening the recreation spot in some form.
Multiple township residents spoke out during Monday’s meeting in support of restoring the popular outdoor swimming pool, which first opened on July 4, 1925, and served as a popular summer destination until its closure following the 2017 season when flooding damaged the pool’s pumps and the restaurant’s furnace.
“I wanted to come here and speak in favor of restoring this historic landmark to its former glory,” Kerri Goldinger said, noting several projects in recent years in which vacant buildings were demolished and converted into green space. “I really would like to see this pool that has been here for 90-plus years be restored so we could have more revenue coming in for our community and more recreation.”
She said prior to moving to the township, her family would make frequent trips from the Butler area, sometimes multiple times during the same weekend, to visit Ligonier Beach.
“There are other pools around, but there’s no pool like that pool,” Goldinger said. “It was such a great, wonderful place to be, and so many people in the community have memories there growing up. It would be a terrible thing if it were demolished and turned into something else.”
Goldinger’s husband, Matt Goldinger, also cautioned against eliminating the swimming pool in favor of green space or walking trails.
“If you drive to the top of Kissel Springs Road, you’ve got 15,000 acres to walk around outside, it’s State Game Lands 42. We don’t have another swimming pool,” he said. “Once you fill it with dirt, it’s done — 90 years down the drain... I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it going, I just hope that before we fill it with dirt and say ‘To heck with it,’ we look into trying to keep it going for the community.”
A $250,000 grant from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation and another $136,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Community Conservation Partnerships Program financed the township’s purchase of the property, including its 1.3-million-gallon, 400-by-125-foot concrete pool, from previous owners Steve and Sherry Kozar.
The McKenna Foundation grant covered half of the land acquisition costs plus a land survey and phase one environmental study, which were two of the foundation’s conditions for its matching funds, along with the DCNR grant.
Members of the Ligonier Beach Park Development Committee will work closely with the new engineers, holding a series of public meetings beginning in February, township manager Terry Carcella said. Members of the community not selected to the committee are encouraged to attend those meetings, once scheduled, to provide input and ideas.
“This is going to be a huge project for this community,” supervisor Stephanie Verna said. “We just encourage people to stay informed. There will be other meetings, and we encourage everyone to come to those meetings with ideas and an open mind. I think with the community, the more ideas we can get together and the more we work together, we’ll get to the best solution for that property.”
Township resident Keith Lisk shared some ideas for the property during Monday’s meeting.
“It’s a cool pool,” Lisk said. “I know it’s had some issues and I’d love to see it revitalized to be even more than it has been. We don’t have the summer weather we used to have, it rains out here a lot, so in order for that pool, in my opinion, to generate some real revenue, we’ve got to make it something that can be used all year round.”
Among Lisk’s suggestions were incorporating an ice skating rink, volleyball court and a miniature boardwalk with multiple concession areas.
“I think putting in maybe three or four small concessions — you’ve got to have boardwalk fries, pizza, things like that — that people typically get at the beach,” he said. “They could be run by employees of Ligonier Beach or maybe an opportunity for some local businesses.”
The committee’s goal is to have three potential land development plans for the Ligonier Beach property ready for the supervisors to consider by mid-April so the township can apply for a DCNR development grant based on the chosen plan.
“The potential funding of each plan and the financial sustainability for Ligonier Township to maintain the property in the years to come is our number one concern. We are not dealing with a vacant parcel. We have structures, parking and a good footprint for future uses. We need to define how the property will be used in this public participation process guided by professionals and our staff,” Carcella said previously.
He said the development committee should consider public/private partnerships and stormwater management controls in its proposals for Ligonier Beach Park. The goal is to pick a plan that makes sense for Ligonier Township and is cost-effective and supported by the community long-term.
“We don’t want to build something we can’t maintain and keep public use in place for years. We don’t want to build something we can’t afford. So when we put this development together we want to make sure it can sustain itself in some manner,” Carcella said. “We will study and examine all potential uses for the property, from a broadband hot spot to a multi-use café for our residents and visitors, a future connection of a trail along Route 30 to historic Laughlintown to a future trail connection to Fort Ligonier. These are some of the ideas. A master comprehensive parks, recreational and open space plan for the Ligonier Valley corridor is a possibility. A master plan that connects our prime tourist facilities along Route 30 could greatly enhance the effort for year-round visitors to our region.
“By partnering and working together with our neighbors we can make great things happen here,” Carcella said.
The supervisors elected John Beaufort to serve as supervisors chairman for 2020, Paul Knupp as vice chairman and Stephanie Verna as secretary/treasurer. The supervisors will continue to hold their public meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month and 4:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month in 2020.
In the only split vote of the reorganization session, the supervisors voted 3-2 to appoint a newcomer to the Ligonier Township Municipal Authority (LTMA) board rather than re-appointing longtime chairman Glen Kalp.
Supervisors Knupp, Weimer and Matson voted in favor of appointing Dan Resenic to the LTMA board. Beaufort and Verna opposed the motion.
In other business at Monday’s reorganization meeting, the supervisors approved:
- Appointing Bethany Caldwell assistant secretary/treasurer for 2020;
- Appointing MBM Law Group and Michael Korns as the township’s solicitor for 2020 at an hourly rate of $125 per hour;
- Appointing Keith Ashley and Jim Nieusma as code enforcement officers for 2020;
- Appointing Berkheimer to collect 511 taxes and wage and local service taxes;
- Appointing First Commonwealth Bank as the depository for the general fund, developer’s account and Ligonier Beach accounts for 2020;
- Appointing Sheila Grimm to the township’s planning commission for a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2024;
- Appointing Commercial National Bank as depository for liquid fuels funds for 2020 and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as depository for the state liquid fuels fund investment fund for 2020;
- Appointing Nieusma as zoning officer and community development officer for 2020 and Carcella as zoning administrator for 2020;
- Appointing Mike D’Arrico as sewage enforcement officer and Mesko Engineering as alternate sewage enforcement officer for 2020;
- To compensate planning commission members and zoning hearing board members at a rate of $30 per meeting to be paid quarterly in 2020;
- Re-appointing Scott Gongaware to a four-year term on the zoning hearing board expiring Jan. 2, 2023;
- Appointing Verna and Carcella as chief administrative officer of the non-uniformed pension plan for 2020;
- That supervisors’ stipends be paid quarterly for 2020 and limited in amount to the rate stipulated by the Second Class Township Code and approved by the township auditors. Carcella estimated the stipend amount is expected to be roughly $2,500 for the year;
- Appointing John Rhodes as chairman of the Agricultural Security Program and Lewis Thomas and Alan Smith to serve on the Agricultural Security Program for 2020;
- Appointing Larry Shirey as chairman of the vacancy board for 2020;
- Appointing Wessel & Company Auditors as the township’s CPA for 2020;
- Appointing Nieusma as open records officer for 2020;
- Appointing Carcella as representative to the Act 32 Westmoreland County Wage Tax committee and Caldwell alternate representative;
- Appointing Beaufort as the township’s emergency management coordinator and Steve Kozar as assistant emergency management coordinator for 2020;
- Re-appointing the following Ligonier Township Recreation Committee members for 2020: Larry Shew to a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2024; Mark Gaier to a four-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2023; Robert Gangawere to a three-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2022; Tina Smitley to a two-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2021, and Judy Ridgeway to a one-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2020.