“Free” Land Comes at a “Price” to ASD

School Board Solicitor Lee Price said Armstrong School District board directors are required to sign a 'Declaration of Gift' from Sherry Family Trust to receive the 68-acre land in Manor Township off Route 442 to build their new 7-12 school. Such stipulations in the declaration, include a finder's fee payment to Allegheny Real Estate, agreeing to pay all legal fees during closing and allowing Trust representatives to tap in to sewer or water lines on the property at no cost if the other 1oo-acre parcel is developed.

by Jonathan Weaver

The Sherry Family Trust has about a dozen stipulations for what must be done if the Armstrong School District indeed wants their donated land.

Before the family gives the school district the deed for the 68-acre parcel in Manor Township near Buffington Road off Route 422, school board members must agree to several items under the family’s ‘Declaration of Gift,’ including that the parcel will indeed primarily be used for a school, something Solicitor Lee Price said Trust advisors were very “animate” about.

“There are several conditions to this gift, and if we accept this document, we’re going to live with those conditions,” Price said.

Other conditions Board directors must agree to include paying Allegheny Real Estate of Kittanning a $70,000 finder’s fee, designating $35,000 into an escrow account, reimburse the family for any legal fees and allow the Trust to tap into any sewage and water lines without fee from the school district if established.

Armstrong School District must also agree to build the grades 7-12 school within two years – a year ahead of L.R. Kimball Architect’s schedule. The school is currently planned to open for the 2015-16 school year.

Price and Board members hope to tweak the language of such clause that the building only need to be built or under construction at such time, which L.R. Kimball Representatives John Hummel and Brian Hayes said would be no problem.

“It would be past the point of no return by then,” Hayes said.

The real estate company is said to be ‘actively’ promoting the other 100-acre parcel, which is part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Both parcels are said to be valued at approximately $700,000 (which if Board directors sign Monday are not to dispute).

Agreeing to the above stipulations and more might ensure the District receives an additional $35,000 cash donation.

While Price is discussing the legal stipulations, architects will be on the new site performing environmental and wetland studies next week. A preliminary coal seam exploration produced positive results for the construction crews.

“We drilled four holes in areas where we thought anything that would reveal a mine void and we did not hit anything, so we’re satisfied that a mining issue is no longer an issue,” Hayes said.

However, the land must also be explored for coal mines after geotechnical statistics are further known, which won’t be until after more details about the building are determined.

L.R Kimball Segment Leader John Hummel (left) and Project Manager Brian Hayes told school board directors at their open caucus session last night that surveying work will commence this week. They also asked for board directors to sign off on the first two PlanCon documents provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and presented more details regarding the new grades 7-12 school in Manor Township.

Hayes and school administrators ‘made some tweaks’ and devised a three-story, 166,750 square-foot school built on the donated site’s plateau.

“We had to be pretty compact and efficient with the land – it’s not as if we had that much room to spread out up there because it does kinda go off the edge,” Hayes said.

On the ‘quiet side’ of the school will be a 4,000 square-foot library and department-grouped classrooms. Portions of all three floors will accomodate senior high schools due to an increased enrollment. More than 30 junior high classrooms will be on the first and second floors. The third floor science rooms would be used entirely by senior high students.

Junior high students would also have a different cafeteria than the senior high, with the kitchen being in-between.

On the other side of the school would be a nearly 1,000-seat auditorium, 1,200-seat gymnasium, an auxiliary gym and chorus, band and technical classrooms.

“Although there are many different types of building layouts, this is the one most efficient for the program we have to keep below the (PlanCon) efficiency levels,” Hayes said.

The current school map does not include athletic stadiums, which Hayes said are not reimbursable by the State and construction bids are received at a later time.

“Because of the budget situation, we want to make sure you get the building and site developed first,” Hayes said.

The projected school layout also allows for possible classroom expansion, particularly if West Shamokin Jr. – Sr. High would be closed in the future due to a decline in enrollment.

“If the population shrunk to the point where this (District) may have to become one high school, that would be the goal to try and accommodate those students,” Hayes said. “That would be way down the road, but we wanted to provide that open end corridor so you could add those extra classrooms, however many you may need.”

Information regarding the projected school is to be given to public taxpayers via the June school newsletter and on the District website.

School board members authorized L.R. Kimball to continue their work and are expected to agree on PlanCon A&B work completed at Monday’s regular meeting.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Board President Joseph Close and Vice-President Christopher Choncek said they met with Apollo-Ridge School District board representatives last week, who agreed to take students from South Bend Township should they secede from Armstrong. However, they stipulated that secession agreements be ‘substantial’ before an agreement is further considered.

The projected school layout as shown to school board directors and public taxpayers last night