SAEGERTOWN — At its board meeting Monday night, the PENNCREST School Board discussed an issue that could potentially lead to the raising of taxes for area residents.
As the school board voted in November to carry out extensive renovations at the Maplewood buildings, the district was relying on two townships to save them $500,000 in expenses.
According to PENNCREST Superintendent Timothy Glasspool, the school district needs Steuben and Randolph townships to opt in to allow the school district to use local inspectors to carry out the code enforcement for the renovations. Yet months later, neither township has opted in, leaving PENNCREST with a potential increase in project costs.
During its November meeting, the PENNCREST school board voted to carry out millions of dollars of renovations to both Maplewood Elementary and Maplewood Junior/Senior High School.
The renovations, carried out through the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA), according to PENNCREST Superintendent Glasspool, would make the buildings “warm, dry and safe” for students.
The GESA renovations include asbestos abatement, roof replacement and envelope sealing the building among other projects. The cost for this project, which PENNCREST took out a loan of $10 million, may be going up as the school board and two townships work out an issue over building inspectors.
PENNCREST is hoping that both Steuben and Randolph townships, where both the Maplewood buildings are located, will allow the school board to use local commercial inspectors to carry out the building inspections for the project.
If the townships do not allow for local inspectors, Glasspool said that the alternative is going through the Department of Labor and Industry for the inspections, which would cost PENNCREST an extra $500,000. During Monday’s meeting, Glasspool said if they had to take on the additional expense, there could be a raise in taxes to offset the cost.
Although the school board has reached out multiple times to the township supervisors, an agreement has yet to reached. According to Glasspool, the school board has been trying to work out this issue for months. “We have been working with both townships since October,” he said.
Glasspool said that the school district will continue to reach out to the townships and that they are “still trying to work together.” He said that no matter what happens with the inspectors, “the project is going to continue.”
While the school district hopes to avoid the added expense from the Department of Labor and Industry, not all parties feel that way.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Randolph Township, Glenn Armstrong feels that if something is to be done, it should be done the right way.
Armstrong has had generations of his family all attend the Maplewood schools. When it comes to something as important as asbestos, “I want it done 100% correct,” he said.
Armstrong said that he wants what is best for the residents of his township, and that he is tired of PENNCREST raising taxes. As a township supervisor, Armstrong said that when it comes to budgeting, “we make do with what we have.”
When Director of Facilities and Transportation for PENNCREST David Dickson went to Randolph Township about the inspectors, the supervisors were not happy with the presentation, according to Armstrong.
“They were trying to hide things. They wanted to take shortcuts,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong also said that while Dickson was at the meeting they asked him if opting in would mean taxes would not be raised for five years, which he could not say.
While PENNCREST has said a tax increase may be needed to cover the additional cost, Armstrong believes they might raise taxes anyway.
“I’m upset with them,” said Armstrong. “My township has had one tax raise in 25 years, PENNCREST doesn’t run their budget like we do.”
As Randolph Township has yet to opt-in to allow local inspectors, it does not mean that they have decided they won’t do it in the future.
“(The township supervisors) are still discussing it as of right now,” said Armstrong.
He said that Randolph is also working with Steuben Township about potentially only opting in for commercial inspections. Steuben Township officials were unable to be reached before publication.
Currently, the townships are relying on their solicitors to help them navigate the situation.
While Armstrong is not sure what course of action his township will take, he does have a simple goal. “I don’t want to see our taxes go up, and I want to see that they do this project properly.”
The first step of the project on the Maplewood schools is to remove asbestos from the building. When asbestos is abated, students are not allowed to be in school.
As the next opportunity for work to be done is the summer, there is still some time before the decision over the inspectors has to be made. “It’s not a critical time right now,” said Glasspool. “We are ahead of our time frame."
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.