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ASD gives $61K to bat fund

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

The bats are off the Armstrong School District's back.

After learning last week that ASD's proposed high school in Manor would encroach on the forested habitat of the endangered Indiana Bat, the school board approved a mandatory donation of $61,800 to the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

Architects with L.R. Kimball told the board last week that the bats were discovered during preliminary research on the site off Buffington Drive and that the district received notice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Project manager Brian Hayes said if ASD didn't pay the amount calculated by the government based upon the disruption of trees within 20 acres of the bats' territory, the district would have to provide additional acreage for the bats at another location or halt construction entirely.

Director Linda Walker inquired about the timing of the payment.

“This money would have to be paid no matter when those trees are removed, right?” she asked. “Whether we do it now or 8 or 10 months down the road, the money would have to be paid?”

Solicitor Lee Price assured the board that was the case, and the motion passed 5-1.

After the meeting, board President Joe Close said it was the only realistic option for the district.

“We didn't have another 20 acres to mitigate,” said Close. “From what I understand, the money is supposed to go to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and they're supposed to buy other properties that would be safe for the bats to inhabit.”

As for the unforeseen expense, Close said the donation comes out of budgeted soft costs of about $8 million for the $60 million project.

“There's extra money they build in for these types of things,” said Close. “You don't want to use it, but that's what it's there for.”

The board is next set to meet in December.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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