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Penn-Trafford officials seek input on remodeling

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn-Trafford School Board members are asking residents to share their thoughts over the next three weeks about what should be included in the remodeling of the high school.

After reviewing estimated costs for everything from replacing the plumbing to building new science labs, board members on Monday said they might be ready to vote in early June to finalize how the 41-year-old building should be updated.

They also said they will have to start developing a long-term plan for improvements to the district's other schools as they deal with aging buildings and a declining student population.

Officials estimate that the district could afford to pay for a $40 million project at the high school over 20 years or a $30 million project over 12 years without raising the property-tax rate. In those scenarios, the board would restrict its borrowing so that annual debt payments would be no greater than those debts expiring over the next couple of years.

Officials are approaching the work without the expectation of state reimbursement, which state politicians in Harrisburg have frozen. Superintendent Thomas Butler said that moratorium reduces the potential money Penn-Trafford could use for the project by 22 to 25 percent.

In outlining a series of possible upgrades suggested by district staff, Butler said all of the construction items and soft costs estimated by the district's project manager and architect tallied $32.4 million.

“This is conservative, so it may be high, maybe by 5 percent,” Butler said.

In the rundown, the project included plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work; new science labs and upgrades to the music and family and consumer sciences rooms; new kitchen equipment and other work in the kitchen and cafeteria; new seats, rigging and acoustical work in the auditorium; library and locker room improvements; and $3 million in general minor renovations throughout classrooms.

Other work included items that Butler said would help to relieve traffic congestion, including building 66 new parking spaces by the auditorium, adding a new bus loop and installing a new access road to Warrior Court.

Also proposed is new lighting in the parking lots.

The work doesn't include two items that school board member Nick Petrucci suggested as possible additions.

He said parents have complained in the past about the desire for more gym space. An auxiliary gym would add about $3.5 million more to the price of the project.

He also said he thinks a new sprinkler system — at a cost of $700,000 — is a necessity.

Board members Dallas Leonard and Toni Ising both said they want to embark on the project without raising taxes.

“If we have to increase taxes just to get through this project, what's going to happen when we get to the other projects?” Ising said.

One resident, Chris Guy, told the board he agrees with the district's conservative approach to the project.

“I don't drive a car that I don't pay cash for, so I'm with it,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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