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Baldwin-Whitehall School District set to turn Lafferty Center over to borough

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The keys to an old, two-room school house in north Baldwin Borough could be given back to the municipality, if officials agree that the building will only be used for public purposes.

The Baldwin-Whitehall School District, which owns the now-vacant building and nearby ball field, has found no use for the facility after taking possession of it nearly one year ago, Superintendent Randal Lutz said. Board members on Dec. 18 agreed in an 8-1 vote to sell the building for $1 to Baldwin Borough, with certain conditions.

Board member Martin Michael Schmotzer dissented.

“It really is a community resource and a community asset,” Lutz said. “If we take ownership of it, then we're responsible for dragging the fields and cutting the grass and things like that. We really don't have a school district purpose for that building. It's not like we're going to have (physical education) classes over there.”

Yet, district officials — who have been in talks about how to handle the future of the facility for at least two years — would require Baldwin Borough leaders to use the building for a “public nature,” something Lutz said is stipulated in the agreement that was sent to Baldwin officials last week. Baldwin Borough Council has yet to vote on the purchase of the property, which includes the Lafferty Center and adjacent ball field.

The 3.3 acre property is valued at $571,400, according to the Allegheny County assessment records.

“Their purpose will only be public in nature. If they decide that they want to sell it or develop it in any other way, it would revert back to the school district,” Lutz said.

Schmotzer questioned if the borough is committed to doing that.

Lutz said that local ball associations use the building for storage and with no running water at the nearby concession stands, the building typically is used for restroom facilities.

Yet, borough officials said a stipulation like that could be a deal breaker.

“If that's a stipulation that Mr. Lutz thinks he's putting on this, then in my opinion the deal should be off,” said Baldwin Borough Council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk, who questioned why the borough would enter into an agreement that is not favorable to the municipality.

With the stipulation, the sale, then, “may or may not continue moving forward,” Lutz said.

The two governing bodies — the school district and borough — have volleyed possession of the building during the last three and a half decades,

Baldwin Borough officials in November 1978 entered into a 99-year lease for the school district owned-property and paid a rent of $1 per year for the facility, with a contract that was set to expire on Nov. 30, 2077.

The site essentially was used as a “senior center” over the years, until a storm in February 2010 damaged the roof and floor. Most of the activities at the Lafferty Center were moved to the Baldwin Borough municipal complex on Churchview Avenue.

Baldwin officials then said they realized the borough no longer had a need for the building, yet were paying several thousand dollars a year for its upkeep. They looked at options, such as subletting it, but ultimately decided to evoke a termination clause in the contract.

Baldwin turned possession of the building back over to the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in late 2012.

Baldwin-Whitehall officials made several upgrades to the building, like replacing doors.

“It's a nice facility with its location and its size and its layout,” Lutz said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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