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Norwin School Board rejects upgrades to Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Norwin School Board will not vote on a proposal for upgrades to Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, essentially saying “no” to the project in its current form.

School directors last week decided not to add the item to their agenda for Monday's voting meeting.

Rehabbing the vocational-technical school in New Stanton for the first time since 1975 would cost $9.1 million for what director Brad Elwood has called “the nuts and bolts of the building that are in dire need of a transplant.”

Norwin's share of the cost would have been about $83,000 annually for 15 years, a figure that's subject to change each year based on the number of students attending the vo-tech.

Nine school districts send students to the school, and all need to vote “yes” by Jan. 31 for the project to move forward. Of those nine, four have approved the project — Greensburg Salem, Penn-Trafford, Yough and Jeannette, Elwood said.

“The (Norwin) board decided (there) didn't appear to be support to put it on the agenda,” said Bob Perkins, Norwin school board president.

The board wants to support the career and technical center, he said, and members don't want vo-tech leaders to think the feedback is completely negative.

“We just don't agree with the proposal,” he said. “Hopefully they (will) go back and develop a different approach.”

Perkins recommended to vo-tech leaders another feasibility study with an architect who would develop specifications.

Norwin's board released a statement affirming its support of the center.

“The board has a strong desire for Norwin students to continue with the opportunity to enroll in an industry-based program, which supports their individual career choices,” the statement reads. “Further, Norwin School District supports renovating and upgrading the CWCTC facility, which is in need of physical plant improvements.”

Two companies, Chevron and Honeywell, submitted project bids by the deadline, said Troy Collier, principal of the school. Only Chevron's bid was complete, he added.

“I think you got stuck with something, and maybe it should have been trashed a long time ago and restarted,” board member Raymond Kocak said. “I just think this may not be it. I think we need some better solutions.”

The board has seen its share of renovations, member Dennis Rittenhouse said, alluding to Norwin's recently updated campus.

“It's just not our M.O.,” he said. “In the past, we've had competitive bids come in for what we did, and that's not what we're seeing here.”

District Superintendent William Kerr said Norwin supports renovations, and officials will work with the vo-tech leaders to seek a new, more cost-effective direction.

“They would prefer to see it done in the traditional way, where you have multiple prime contractors and you have a higher degree of competitive (bidding),” Norwin business manager John Wilson said.

As bid, the project included work to the building's heating, ventilation, water system, cooling tower and roof. Elwood estimates an energy savings of about $1.5 million over 15 years.

Of major concern is updating the ventilation system for the school's welding program, Elwood said. The system is original to the building.

In the meantime, he said, the center has made an arrangement with the Plumbers and Pipefitters union in Youngwood so students can practice their skills at that location.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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