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Pools may see the light of day

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, May 6, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh Councilman Luke Ravenstahl has floated a plan to reopen the swimming pool in Brighton Heights by using money set aside to buy fancier street lamps in the commercial areas of his district.

The measure received unanimous preliminary approval by council Wednesday -- and piqued the interest of other members who are seeking ways to open pools in their neighborhoods.

"I think it's a great idea," said Councilman Alan Hertzberg. "I'm seriously going to look at whether there is a way for me to do the same type of thing for one, maybe two, of the pools in my district that are not scheduled to reopen."

Hertzberg's district includes the West End, as well as Duquesne Heights, Banksville and a section of Mt. Washington.

Ravenstahl's measure will come up for a final vote before council Tuesday.

His plan to get the pools open follows an effort by a Pittsburgh charitable group to raise money to reopen several city pools and recreation centers.

Squirrel Hill philanthropist Elsie Hillman, Pittsburgh Foundation Chief Executive William Trueheart and city Councilman Sala Udin recently organized a group called Save Our Summer to raise money to provide summer activities for children.

The organization so far has raised enough money to reopen 13 of the city's 33 pools and seven of the city's 19 recreation centers. The facilities were closed in August, when the mayor announced budget cuts to deal with the city's financial crisis.

Ravenstahl's plan calls for reopening Jack Stack Pool -- which had the fifth-highest attendance among city pools in 2002 -- by using about $40,000 of the $315,673 the Urban Redevelopment Authority allocated to his district's Neighborhood Needs fund for decorative street lighting.

He represents much of the North Side, such as Brighton Heights, Marshall-Shadeland, Troy Hill and Spring Garden.

URA Director Mulugetta Birru said he has given the nod to Ravenstahl's proposal to use the street-lighting money for pools.

"This is a matter of re-prioritizing what is essential and what is not," said Ravenstahl. "I see the well-being of our youth this summer as a top priority."

The lighting projects typically involve burying power lines -- the most expensive portion of the project -- and replacing existing street poles and lamps with units that are closer to the ground and reminiscent of the style of street lighting used in the late 1800s.

Ravenstahl said the remaining money will be used to complete the street-lighting project in the East Ohio Street commercial district. Some of the money also will be kept in reserve for emergencies or for smaller projects.

Council President Gene Ricciardi said he, too, will look into whether any Neighborhood Needs money for his district could be used to open the three pools in the communities he represents that are scheduled to remain closed.

He represents the South Side, as well as such neighborhoods Carrick, Arlington, a section of Mt. Washington and parts of Oakland.

Murphy spokesman Craig Kwiecinski said the administration's policy regarding Neighborhood Needs money is to not interfere with how it is spent.

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