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Latrobe board will spend $9.4 million on athletic complex

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 12:40 a.m.

The Greater Latrobe School Board on Monday approved six contracts worth almost $9.4 million for a multipurpose athletic complex at the junior-senior high school, but not before several residents voiced strong opposition to spending that amount on athletics.

The board unanimously approved the contracts totaling $9,393,582 for two lighted artificial turf fields, a field house with locker rooms, a weight room and meeting rooms, a concession stand and bleachers with seats for 2,000 spectators.

The contracts were awarded in the following amounts:

• General construction: Gurtner Construction Co. of Pittsburgh's West End, $3,699,300;

• Site construction work: Custom Contracting of Acme, $3,209,400;

• Heating, ventilating and air conditioning: Hranec Sheet Metal Inc. of South Union in Fayette County, $238,000;

• Plumbing: W.G. Tomko Inc. of Finleyville, $599,888;

• Electrical work: Allegheny City Electric Inc. of Ross, $1,152,500;

• Bleachers: Dant Clayton Sports Inc. of Louisville: $494,494.

In addition to the construction contracts, the board hired Jeff Zell Consultants Inc. of Coraopolis for construction quality assurance testing and inspection services for $59,990. The Institute for Building Technology and Safety of Ashburn, Va., was hired as an independent inspection agency for $9,050.

The school board in March approved a $10 million bond issue to pay for the multipurpose athletic complex, as well as other improvements for the district. The board had said that the debt service will not require the district to increase property taxes.

Director Dr. Michael Zorch told members of the audience who opposed the project he had misgivings about the project, especially the cost, but he felt that the improvements to the fields are needed.

Prior to the vote on the project, the board abruptly adjourned the meeting for several minutes when members of the audience began shouting questions and asking for additional time to speak. One of those in the audience called the board “gutless.”

Solicitor Ned Nakles spoke to some members to ask that they cease the interruptions to enable the meeting to continue.

Paul Upson of Unity attempted to speak in the middle of the meeting, claiming that Zorch had made a political statement.

“I bet none of you ran on a platform to spend this money,” Upson said.

Upson said the district might have been able to spend $2 million to upgrade its athletic facilities, rather than the higher amount, because so many taxpayers are living on a fixed income and can't afford higher taxes.

Timothy Thomas, a member of Unity's zoning hearing board, said the board should not be spending the taxpayers' money on artificial turf fields for practice, when schools such as Hempfield Area use grass for practice.

“This is absolutely absurd. Something is out of whack,” Thomas said.

Mary Maxwell of Latrobe said she suppports the board's decision, saying that sports have helped her children, and the students will be safer practicing at the high school instead of being bused to other locations.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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