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Mt. Lebanon swimming pool renovation plan hits snag

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The baby pool at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center will be turned into an extended, graded shallow end and include interactive features. The change is part of several proposed renovations to the pool, including new slides and redesigned locker rooms and offices.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
People lay on the grass by the municipal pool at Mount Lebanon Recreation Center on Tuesday, the site of proposed renovations including new slides, redesigned locker rooms and offices, and a graded shallow end with interactive features.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The municipal pool at Mount Lebanon Recreation Center is the site of proposed renovations including new slides, redesigned locker rooms and offices, and a graded shallow end with interactive features.

Mt. Lebanon's long-awaited upgrade to its swimming pool and bath house was supposed to get under way after Labor Day and be finished in time for next summer, but a lawsuit over the bid process is threatening that schedule.

When bids for the renovations came in this month well above engineers' initial estimates, commissioners awarded the contracts anyway so they could add more amenities to the pool and the work could be finished over the winter.

But the project could be delayed because a resident is suing the municipality, claiming the commission improperly allowed the winning bidder to modify its bid and undercut another company because the board didn't want to hire a minority contractor.

“The issue right now is whether we should be stopped from proceeding in the near future,” said Mt. Lebanon Manager Steve Feller, who declined further comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. “It would be speculation on my part to say how long it might take.”

In the lawsuit, resident Anna Pappas alleges that at the bid opening on Aug. 7, Washington-based Waller Construction was the low bidder on general construction work after adding their base bid of $1.618 million to their $18,000 bid for drainage work the commission listed as an optional add-on, for a total bid of $1.64 million.

Jefferson Hills-based Plavchak Construction submitted a $1.49 million base bid, but bid $222,800 for the drainage work for a total of $1.71 million.

Pappas is seeking an injunction that would prohibit work from being done until the rest of the case is decided.

Pappas is a resident of Mt. Lebanon, which gives her standing to challenge the commission's decision, said Pappas' attorney, Mark Willard.

Plavchak, the lawsuit said, was allowed to adjust its bid for the drainage to $119,100 after all other bids were opened, making it the lowest bidder for the overall contract. The commission voted on Aug. 13 to give the work to Plavchak.

The municipality's rules say that all bids and corrections have to be received before the bid opening date.

Pappas' lawsuit alleges that the municipality was trying to avoid giving the contract to Waller, a minority-owned business. She asks that Plavchak's contract be invalidated and awarded to Waller, and that Plavchak be blocked from rebidding.

Mark Plavchak, president of Plavchak Construction, declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Greg Kittridge, vice president and project manager at Waller, said he was shocked at the Aug. 13 commission meeting when Plavchak revised its bid to be the lowest.

“I still, to this day, think there's something funny here,” Kittridge said.

Feller said the commission was scheduled to withdraw the contract Monday night and re-award it to Plavchak without the controversial drainage add-on.

But Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Ward ordered that no action be taken, pending a hearing on the injunction. No date had been set.

The commission has awarded contracts for general construction, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical and aquatic work on the pool project worth a total of $3.95 million, to be paid for from a $4.8 million recreation bond issued late last year.

When design and other costs are taken into account, the pool project will cost about $4.28 million. A slide and other features are being added.

Options added to the pool mean will leave less money for other recreation improvements, such regrading two holes at the municipal golf course or upgrading Robb Hollow Park, Feller said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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