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Westmoreland

Franklin Regional residents question safety, location, cost of Sloan campus project

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, 12:09 p.m.

Residents of Franklin Regional School District voiced concerns about the cost and location of a new elementary campus to the school board Monday night.

“This is not common sense,” said Valerie Mittereder of Murrysville. “To put all of our children out on a windy country road just makes no common sense.”

The Sloan campus project — it calls for the district's elementary students to be consolidated into two buildings, a renovated Sloan Elementary and a second, new building — recently went before the Murrysville planning commission, whose members cited a number of concerns including the project's location along Crowfoot and Sardis roads.

“My biggest concern is from a safety standpoint,” said Rick O'Mahony, a founding member of the municipal emergency management council and a Murrysville Medic One board member.

Several residents questioned the merit of putting all of the district's elementary students onto a single campus, particularly in light of the 2014 stabbing incident at Franklin Regional High School. Attacker Alex Hribal had been sentenced less than 12 hours before the meeting.

“We did not lose anyone in that incident,” O'Mahony said. “Part of the reason is that several other agencies had easy access to the (high school) campus. We don't have that way out at Crowfoot and Sardis roads.”

School board solicitor Gary Matta said he has received requests about the safety and security plans for the proposed Sloan elementary campus.

Matta assured attendees that those plans were in place but said making such plans public was not in the district's best interest.

“I think we are more concerned with staff and students' well-being rather than satisfying the public,” Matta said.

Cost was another factor weighing heavily on some residents' minds, given the suggested price tag of $54 million.

Eric Felack, chief of staff for state Rep. Eli Evankovich and a district property owner, relayed his boss' concerns.

“Fix what you have,” Felack said. “Don't raise taxes through the roof to pay for a new building.”

Former Murrysville Council President Joan Kearns agreed, citing additional costs including demolition of the former schools, remediation of those properties and the relocation of the district's administrative offices, now housed at Heritage Elementary School.

“All of these things prey on the minds of people who are facing a 9.5-mill tax hike over the next few years,” Kearns said.

School board President Dr. Larry Borland said the board is planning an additional public forum to discuss the project with the public. District officials previously held several meetings and a series of town-hall forums prior to voting on the elementary campus project.

Resident Lynn Full said a new campus was unnecessary.

“You don't have to build a building from scratch to get technology into it,” she said.

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or @MurrysvilleStar on Twitter.

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