Allegheny Valley opts to demolish Colfax Elementary
Colfax Elementary School is destined to vanish from Springdale’s landscape, probably before the 2020-21 school year starts.
The Allegheny Valley School Board voted 6-3 on Monday to demolish the vacated elementary school rather than try to sell it.
It’s an issue the board has been wrestling with for months, even before the old school was closed and its students moved to the expanded and renovated Acmetonia Elementary School last year.
It faced the options of selling the building, demolishing it or trying to repurpose it for a community use.
Before the board made its decision Monday, it heard from one district resident, David Buchman of Harmar, who told the board it should explore selling the building.
“Sale is really the only option for repurposing the property,” Buchman said, adding that other districts across the state usually manage to repurpose vacant school buildings by selling them to third parties.
“There may be no interest in purchasing, or you may have five people interested,” Buchman said.
If there turns out to be no interest, Buchman said the district could decide to demolish the school.
Board member Elizabeth Moretti questioned the wisdom of the board entering into a contract with a real estate company to sell the building. She said she was concerned about tying the hands of the new board that will be seated in December.
“I think the reality is, we should pursue selling it,” board President Larry Pollick said. “I think we owe it to our taxpayers and we owe it to our students.”
While there were plenty of ideas from a committee formed to explore repurposing the property, they all had one drawback — no funding plan or commitment attached to them.
“For me, I’m in favor of retaining the property, not the building,” board member Steve Puskar said.
He reasoned that by keeping the land without the building, the district would not have to worry about building maintenance costs, which were projected to be about $120,000, but would still have flexibility to construct a building in the future if enrollment suddenly spiked.
“I, too, would want to hold onto that land,” Pollick said.
The board voted first on a proposal to sell the property, but that was defeated in a 5-4 vote with Moretti, Puskar, Antonio Pollino, Shawn Whelan and Glenna Renaldi voting against it. Pollick, James Gaschler, Joelle McFarland and Donald Rocco voted in favor of it.
The board then turned its attention to the demolition option.
“The approximate cost of demolition is $676,000, but that does not include the cost of asbestos abatement,” Superintendent Pat Graczyk said, citing figures provided by the architectural firm Canzian Johnston and Associates.
There was a brief mention of tearing only part of the building down, but Pollick appeared to quash that quickly, saying, “Let’s be clear, partial demolition means that we still own part of that building, and that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The board then voted to demolish the building with Moretti, Puskar, Renaldi, Rocco, Whelan and Pollick favoring that option.
“We’ll contact Canzian Johnston and get a final (demolition) plan and then have them come in to give a public presentation,” Graczyk said.
He said money to pay for the demolition would probably come from the district’s budget surplus.
Board members appeared to be relieved to finally reach a resolution on Colfax.
“At least we are moving in a direction with an end,” Rocco said.
Editor’s note: The name of Harmar resident David Buchman was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.