About 300 persons sprawled throughout the Springfield High School (Pa.) auditorium for tonight’s (Feb. 4) fifth meeting concerning the fate of the school.
Being debated are four expensive options ranging from building a new school near Leamy Avenue, estimated cost $136.4 million; renovating the existing 60-something-year-old structure on Leamy Avenue, estimated cost $133.8 million; building a new school near Saxer Avenue, estimated cost, $131.05 million and doing basic maintenance on the existing structure $100.39 million.
Judging by the questions and applause, the crowd seemed evenly split between the Saxer Avenue option and the bare minimum (or less) one with maybe a slight skewing towards the latter.
Architect and volunteer Gary Lockman said the simple maintenance cost was so high because the school’s HVAC and electrical systems were at the end of their life cycle. He said it would cost $20 million just to upgrade those systems. He further said the asbestos roof deck needs to be replaced. He noted that this type of roof deck is rather rare significantly hiking the cost of its removal. He said the district investigated cheaper solutions without success and that the asbestos was impossible to encapsulate.
He also said it made no economic sense to renovate the building. Unlike the simple maintenance plan, the renovation plan would include upgrades rather than mere replacements.
Another factor in the expense was the labor cost in southeastern Pennsylvania. A slide was shown illustrating that labor costs were 47 percent less in Berwick and 29 percent less in Pittsburgh.
Don Mooney, the district’s executive director of operations, said the project would be financed with new 20 to 25 year amortization bonds that would wrap around existing bonds scheduled to be paid off in 2025.
He said the owner of a home assessed at the district’s median of $146,050 would pay $250 a year for the simple maintenance plan when the full cost kicks in nine years after the project starts and $399 per year for the Saxer Avenue plan.
One women in the question segment, however, asked if the school district could guarantee that the tax bite would not be greater than what they were claiming, and the district’s representatives were unable to do so.
School Director Douglas E. Carney, who is the driving force behind the town halls, said the school board has been lobbying legislators to repeal the state prevailing wage law, which artificially inflates costs of projects. He said, however, he didn’t think getting rid of it would make much difference in the Springfield High School project due to the project’s scope
For the slide show displayed at the 5th Springfield High Town Hall go here.
5th Springfield High Town Hall Draws 300
300 Attend 5th Springfield High Town Hall
5th Springfield High Town Hall was Feb. 4, 2015