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Penn Hebron property donation pulled from Penn Hills school board agenda

| Monday, April 28, 2014, 12:42 p.m.

Penn Hills school board members will take public input before deciding whether they will give away the Penn Hebron Elementary School property, assessed by Allegheny County at more than $9.4 million, to the municipality.

Municipal leaders plan to demolish the school and build “a new municipal complex” on the Duff Road property, according to a resolution on Monday's agenda. The Penn Hills Municipal Building on Frankstown Road dates back to the Works Progress Administration, and was constructed in the late 1930s.

Craig Alexander, who serves as solicitor for both the school district and the municipality, said that after an executive session held prior to the school board's public meeting, it was decided to pull the item from the agenda. The resolution would have conveyed the Penn Hebron property to the municipality at a cost of $1.

The property is more than 20 acres, located across the street from the Penn Hills Center shopping plaza. However, Alexander said municipal officials are looking to utilize about five acres. Alexander said both sides would be meeting to work toward a resolution “that will satisfy both the district and the municipality.”

The property donation was a late addition to the agenda, prompting some in the standing-room-only crowd to question the board's motives.

“You got caught tonight,” said former board member Erin Vecchio. “You were going to give that building away until you saw all these people here.”

Board president Denise Graham-Shealey said a public meeting will take place with school-district and municipal officials, where residents will be able to comment on any future plans for Penn Hebron Elementary.

Penn Hebron Elementary will close at the end of the current school year, along with Forbes and Washington elementaries, and will be replaced by the consolidated Penn Hills Elementary School, which will open for the 2014-15 school year.

Other items on the agenda included:

• A unanimous vote to end the district's transportation contract with First Student effective June 30. A related item, which passed 8-1 with board member Joe Bailey voting no, will see the district enter into a new five-year contract with A.J. Myers and Sons for transportation services through the 2018-19 school year.

• A unanimous vote to ratify a new agreement with the district's teacher's union, the Penn Hills Education Association. The current contract is set to expire June 30, and teachers' union members voted to ratify the new contract late last week, according to school board members.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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