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West Mifflin Area board OKs demolition of former middle school

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 1:41 a.m.

West Mifflin Area school board on Wednesday unanimously approved demolishing the former middle school along Camp Hollow Road to make the property more attractive to prospective buyers.

The Lebanon and South buildings, and the football field grandstand and press box will be removed.

Directors accepted McLean Architects proposal's for professional services at a cost of 7 percent of the project as presented.

The district closed the school in January 2012 when students were moved to the new $34.7 million middle school built at the high school campus.

Superintendent Daniel Castagna said the district originally hoped to sell the property with the structures intact, even though an appraisal said the property would be worth more empty.

“When the initial appraisal came in four years ago, it said the value of the property was $5 million without the buildings and $3.5 million with the buildings,” Castagna said. “We made the decision at that time to put the building up for sale and try to see what we could get for the building because we didn't want to spend money on tear-down costs.”

The district was able to generate some revenue from the empty school. It earned $7,000 a day from a movie production company for allowing “Foxcatcher,” with actor Channing Tatum, to be filmed there for 10 days in 2012. The same deal applied when the Matt Damon's film “Promised Land” was shot there in June 2012.

But Castagna said the district finally couldn't justify keeping the building up.

“We've been unsuccessful (trying to sell it) for two years now and it's time to make a decision,” he said. “Hopefully, if we tear it down, (the property) will be more valuable to someone then.”

He said the district has had success with that strategy in the past.

“Last year, Emerson Elementary had a building next to it that we tried to sell for a while,” he said. “As soon as we tore it down, Dollar General bought the land. So we're hoping to have a similar experience.”

Business manager Dennis Cmar said there isn't enough money in the district's construction fund for the demolition, and the school district likely will need to take out a loan to complete the project that soon will be open for bids.

“Presumably, if we're able to sell the property, we take the proceeds of that and pay off the loan,” Cmar said.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1970, or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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