ShareThis Page

Workforce becomes issue in Schenley sale

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The outcome of a debate on whether to sell the former Schenley High School in Oakland could depend on perceptions about who would get the jobs to fix it.

Pittsburgh school board member Jean Fink, an ardent supporter of selling Schenley, said on Monday she might vote against the sale because she heard that the prospective buyer, PMC Development Group, used workers from Poland to remove asbestos at the Verizon Building, Downtown.

“One of my happy things with Schenley was that it could be some good jobs for Pittsburgh people,” Fink said.

But Jerry Novick, executive vice president of PMC, said a Pittsburgh contractor did the work at the Verizon Building.

“We didn't import any workers from Poland, nor am I aware of any subcontractors importing workers for the job,” he said.

The board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to accept the $5.2 million bid from PMC, a Philadelphia real estate group, which wants to convert the building into about 175 luxury apartments. Built in 1916, it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The wobble in Fink's support occurs at a critical time for PMC. The board voted 5-4 in 2008 to close the school. Fink sided with the majority who were concerned about asbestos in the building and the high cost of renovating its mechanical systems.

The four board members who voted to close the school were Bill Isler, Heather Arnet, Theresa Colaizzi and Floyd “Skip” McCrea. Arnet resigned from the board, and her eventual replacement, Regina Holley, has said she is opposed to the sale. Isler could not be reached for comment on how he plans to vote on Wednesday.

Two board members who previously voted against Schenley's closing, Tom Sumpter and Mark Brentley Sr., said they will vote against the sale to PMC.

McCrea said he is aware of union concerns about who does the work.

“It makes a difference, but I'm between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “I'll make up my mind when I get there (Wednesday).”

Colaizzi confirmed her support of the sale. “We got a very good opportunity from a company to get it back on the tax rolls.”

Board President Sharene Shealey replaced Randall Taylor on the board in 2009. Taylor voted against closing Schenley. Shealey said she has not decided how she will vote, but she was intrigued by an announcement from state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, that he favors the sale.

Ferlo questioned whether the previous administration inflated estimates to fix the building. The district argued that keeping the school open was too costly.

“With a respected housing developer with assets in seven states ready to take on the challenge, now is the time to move forward and allow this development to be the spark North Oakland needs to encourage more private investment,” he said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.