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McKeesport Area school board picks 3 locations for new schools

| Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

McKeesport Area School District's board of directors has chosen three locations in two city wards for new schools.

The board voted Wednesday to build a new school with separate kindergarten-to-third grade and fourth-to-sixth grade entities in the Seventh Ward, either on the Cornell Intermediate School site or that of Centennial Elementary School.

The third location for such a school would be in the Twelfth Ward on the Palkovitz property. It is along Eden Park Boulevard between Lake Emilie in Renziehausen Park and the former Babe Charapp Ford, not far from the district high school campus.

For that the board authorized architect N. John Cunzolo to investigate the site for potential acquisition.

It hired Garvin Boward Beitko Engineering Inc. of Pittsburgh for $20,000 to do a preliminary geotechnical exploration; and Phillips & Associates of Wall for $8,180 to do due diligence surveying and civil engineering services.

The proposal for a new school along Eden Park raised some citizen concerns.

"It would be a frivolous use of taxpayers' money since the school district already owns land that is eminently usable, that is the Cornell school site," Dr. Major A. Mason III told the board. "The district is already spending too much money on busing students to White Oak who could walk to the Cornell site."

Centennial parent Terri Kisan said the district already has "some great parcels" and did not have to consider purchasing the Palkovitz property.

Noting a recent situation in Norwin School District, Kisan said, "somehow Stewartsville Elementary School can be displaced for a short time ... and then they have a beautiful new school right in the same neighborhood."

She said Norwin "did not have to buy another piece of real estate." Stewartsville students were moved to Norwin's vacant Scull Elementary School while a new school was built.

The board split, 3-3, on the use of Ryan Pierce to conduct schematic designs of the three locations.

Cunzolo said it would speed up the process of getting new schools built and that he would assume the cost of a study of the Palkovitz site if it was not accepted.

School Director Wayne Washowich agreed and moved to take on Pierce, but Solicitor George Gobel questioned a proposal that still would have the district paying Pierce for studies of Cornell and White Oak locations.

Gobel acknowledged that the board had turned over legal concerns about new construction to Butler attorney Thomas W. King III, but said he didn't think King had provided an opinion about Cunzolo's proposal.

School Director Barbara Stevenson moved to table the proposal, saying the district should wait until new board members are elected this fall.

She was joined by Directors Steven Kondrosky and Joseph Lopretto but Washowich, Director James Brown and Board President Lori Spando voted against tabling the idea.

A moment later, the same groups split on hiring Pierce. Absent were school directors Joseph Chiaverini, David Donato and Christopher Halaszynski.

By 5-1, the board rejected a broker's agreement with Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate Inc. Spando voted yes.

McKeesport city Controller Raymond Malinchak, who often attends board meetings as a private citizen, took on Gobel and Business Manager David Seropian over how the district funded items meant to get subsidies not given during the state budget crisis.

"The board passed a budget," the business manager said. "There are some programs that have been scaled back or stopped because we haven't gotten (state subsidy, but) money is coming in from a variety of sources."

"Then you are transferring funds from one line item to another," Malinchak suggested. "I don't think you're allowed to make any transfers."

"There are funds available in each of those budgetary categories," Gobel said.

The board approved a $344,566 contract with Stringert Inc. of McKees Rocks for work on the Founder's Hall Middle School roof.

It also approved $264,000 pact with Phoenix Roofing Inc. of Coraopolis for work on the high school roof.

District architect Enzo Calla of Cunzolo's firm said the district saved about $170,000.

The board also reauthorized Propel McKeesport's charter to operate a school along Versailles Avenue through the 2014-15 school year.

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