Ringgold official dashes Donora plan for elementary center

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

If Donora council wants the former Donora Elementary Center, it needs to bid on it Aug. 19.

That was the advice of Ringgold School Board Vice President Bill Stein upon learning of Donora Council's last-ditch effort to prevent the building from hitting the auction block Aug. 19.

During its agenda session Thursday, council agreed to pursue the transfer of the building from the district to the borough ahead of the planned auction.

Monongahela Elementary Center, also closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year, is scheduled for the auction the same day.

Council's discussion followed Stein's assertion Monday that the board had offered the buildings to the municipalities in which they are located before setting the auction.

Donora council Thursday night indicated it had no offer in writing, but Stein said Friday that those offers were made verbally by school administrators earlier this year.

Stein said council's action is “too little too late.”

“I would be glad to give the school to them,” Stein said. “But the bottom line is, they need to get an agreement giving them responsibility for the building.”

Stein said Donora would have to reach an agreement, approved by council and the school board, detailing the borough's responsibilities upon taking control of the building.

Stein said two-thirds of the school board – six of nine directors – would have to approve such an agreement.

“That's not going to happen before Aug. 19,” Stein said. “We have a responsibility to the auctioneer.”

The school board meets in special session Tuesday for issues unrelated to the building.

But Donora council does not meet until Thursday. The next regular Ringgold meeting is Aug. 20, a day after the auction.

Stein noted that Councilman Jim Coulter estimated Thursday that the borough could have the building ready for classes with just 60 days' notice.

“Their comments are a little ridiculous,” Stein said upon reading an account of council's agenda meeting in Friday's edition of The Valley Independent.

“They're beyond being foolish.”

Stein credited Councilwoman Marie Trozzo for “making some valid points.”

On Thursday, Trozzo questioned Coulter's estimate and whether the borough could afford to maintain the building.

“This is one time I hope I'm wrong, but I think you're making a mistake,” Trozzo told her peers.

Stein said the building has no water service because of a waterline collapse. He said the water problem was present before the building closed in 2011.

Council President Dr. Karen Polkabla, who is also Ringgold superintendent, did not attend the Thursday session.

Menendez said council will reach out to school director Larry Mauro, a Donora resident, regarding the district's intentions.

Mauro toured DEC Thursday afternoon, hours before the council meeting.

He did not return calls placed to his home and to his cell phone Friday evening seeking comment.

Menendez on Thursday cited possible future “political winds of change” that could sweep into office a school board that would want to reopen the building. By taking it over, the borough could hold it for the district.

Those comments drew Stein's ire.

“Donora does not dictate where we're going to send our kids to school. The school board does that,” Stein said. “We made those decisions. In the last election, the people said they were tired of hearing about this building issue.”

During the 2013 election, seven of nine seats on the Ringgold board were contested. The election became a referendum on whether to renovate the closed schools in Donora and Monongahela or build a middle school.

The voters chose candidates aligned with the plan for a new middle school.

“We should be tired of this rhetoric,” Stein said. “I think they have a snowball's chance in hell of replacing all of the school board.

“This time, we're moving on. We're going to do everything possible to build the new building as fast as possible.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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