New Junior-Senior High School Cost Estimate Calculated

L.R Kimball Segment Leader John Hummel points out the new schematic designs for the new junior-senior high school in Manor Township to school board directors Thursday night. The school is estimated to cost $58.7 million - not including athletic fields - and be open for the 2015 school year. He added cost estimates are similar to what was projected before.

by Jonathan Weaver

One of the big questions for the community associated with the new Armstrong School District junior-senior high school – “How much will it cost?” was answered by experts last night.

L.R. Kimball and Reynolds Construction Management officials project the new school, situated on a 68-acre property off Buffington Road in Manor Township – will cost about $58.7 million.

That figure – which is well-under the $80 million Build America Bond issued in 2010 – does not include any athletic facilities, which according to Senior Pre-Construction Manager Walt Tack would cost approximately $3.7 million for a football stadium, six tennis courts and a lighted baseball/softball field.

The bond was originally borrowed for Kittanning, Ford City and Elderton High School building projects.

Construction would cost about $50 million, with the $8.7 million attributed to soft costs, such as professional fees, contingency and permits.

Project Manager Brian Hayes said a lot has happened in the past two months since a scheduled board meeting. On the current timeline, construction would commence in Spring 2013.

Project Manager Brian Hayes said a lot has happened during the past two months and designs are on-track to be completed by December.

“The project is still on-schedule. The intent is to have the building open for the fall 2015 school year,” Hayes said. “In order to meet that target, we need to start construction in the spring of 2013, so we want to go out-to-bid in January.”

In the past two months, architects have re-configured the parking alignment, proposing to have buses park diagonally, and have moved such about 100 feet farther from a gas well on-site.

To discuss more of the pending community impact, L.R. Kimball and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has set the Act 34 Public Hearing for the project for Wednesday, September 5. That meeting will tentatively be held in the Kittanning Senior High School’s Performing Arts Center, pending a final vote by the school board Monday at their regular meeting.

School directors will also vote Monday on whether perform a $31,000 traffic study through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Some of the construction contingencies allow $400,000 for improvements along Route 422 and a new access road.

In other business, Superintendent Stan Chapp responded to a question by Region III Board Director D. Royce Smeltzer regarding the District’s cooperation in the South Bend Township secession effort or move to the Apollo-Ridge School District.

“At this point, we provide Apollo-Ridge with any student information they have asked for, any costs associated with any students for special education programs, all financial and debt information specific to South Bend Township for calculations of bond debt that would need to be assumed by the Apollo-Ridge School District and our transportation director has been in contact with his counterpart to look at the compatibility of software so the bus run information would be available if the time would come to make those transitions,” Chapp said. “I don’t think at this point there’s anything more we can provide to the Apollo-Ridge School District.”

Chapp added he has not received anything to-date from PDE declaring South Bend Township an independent school district.

Board Vice-President Christopher Choncek – who led the meeting in President Joseph Close’s absence – informed directors he was told the parent group has received enough petition signatures to send to PDE. One of the options was for Armstrong School District to pay tuition to Apollo-Ridge for the South Bend students during the upcoming school year.

However, he said that option faded away as conversation with Apollo-Ridge board directors continued in June.

“We were evidently aware that we were not going to pay tuition for this upcoming year. Longer-term for the process of secession, I still am in very-much support of,” Choncek said. “We’ve had conversations as a Board, and I think the consensus is (South Bend Township) still has support for that, which is important.”

Apollo-Ridge would reportedly have to assume as much as $5.5 million of bond debt if a deal is reached.

“I believe we have done everything we can at this point until Apollo-Ridge has digested that information and responded to us one-way or the other,” Choncek said.

Stephanie Dunmire, representing the South Bend Township parents, confirmed the signatures have been gathered, but said after the meeting, a negotiation with Apollo-Ridge needs to take place.

Smeltzer, who was disappointed he was not invited to meet with Apollo-Ridge school directors, said he continues to support his region’s decision.

“I don’t think (all the school board directors are) completely on-board with South Bend leaving – I can’t say that for sure,” Smeltzer said. “I support it, Chris Choncek said he supported it, but the debt is a bid deal. Apollo-Ridge shouldn’t be building our new high school. That $80 million should not be Apollo-Ridge’s responsibility because that money could have been given back. This Board chose to keep that $80 million.”

South Bend Township’s petition is to be submitted to an undisclosed attorney tomorrow.


School directors will meet again Monday to discuss and possibly approve construction items, along with continued discussion from Region III Board Director D. Royce Smeltzer on fielding a referendum question regarding the school. According to Hayes, one is not required by PDE unless the school would cost $20 million more.


  • By player24, August 10, 2012 @ 7:35 AM

    Build the new school asap, sell off all the old school buildings or tear them down and sell the land and look ahead and get a fresh start.

  • By Kittanning Lady, August 10, 2012 @ 8:14 AM

    I do not believe this new school is going to cost 58.7 million add the 3.7 for sports fields =62.4 million.NO I”m not buying this . I know of “unforeseen costs” in construction. These are NOT in the soft costs estimates. I look to see that this school will cost we the taxpayers more like 94 million or more.Mark my words look to other schools and their costs.This is an estimated cost. I will believe it when I see it .Also WHY DOES SOUTH BEND HAVE TO PAY 5.5 MILLION FOR CONSTRUCTION COSTS??? THIS WAS A DIRTY TRICK TO PLAY MR.CHONCEK AND COMPANY.YOUR PLAYING WITH GOOD PEOPLE’S LIVES SHAME ON YOU!!!!

  • By ASDpayer, August 10, 2012 @ 9:55 AM

    Well this ought to reassure some, and enrage others. The bottom line is it is less than the renovation proposal. Even if there are 10 million in cost overruns, ’tis still cheaper than the renovation costs, and we end up with a better facility.
    Well done ASD directors.

  • By maddog, August 10, 2012 @ 11:26 AM

    Wonder whose gas well is on the site???

    Who does Mr. Smeltzer represent? South Bend only? He sure acts like it. Sounds like he has ulterior motives. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are a number of school districts in the state that have been fighting for secession for years and it hasn’t happened. If South Bend thinks they’re going to get special treatment, then the PDE better get ready for the other districts pounding on their dooors!

    I don’t believe any of these estimates because every time they bring them up it seems like something else isn’t included. Also, isn’t it interesting that the same people (Kimball and other professionals) who will be profiting a large chunk of the $8.7 million soft costs already have pocketed most of the $7 million we lost because White and Pyle stopped renovations. Pretty nice that those two firms are making double profits. Where’s Chase McClister on this??? He helped cause this with his game playing with the crooks in the Planning Department.

    Isn’t it funny that the Act 34 hearing will be held in the Kittanning High School. Wow! That’s an obvious political decision.

  • By samkirk, August 10, 2012 @ 11:36 AM

    Boo Hoo Royce Smeltzer! You weren’t invited because you don’t live in South Bend. If this miraculously happens, they won’t be part of ASD and you won’t represent them anyway. But you WILL BE part of ASD and I for one as someone in YOUR area, yep, you represent us West Shamokin folks too, I don’t feel like paying more taxes because South Bend isn’t happy. What about the folks in West Mahoning this board just screwed over? Why isn’t anyone fighting for them to secede? This school district fought the CATS group before. Since this board is so open to secession and they’re making everyone’s bus runs so much further, why don’t they let West Mahoning go too?

    The bigger concern ought to be making this school board change the location to the center of the school district. West Shamokin’s closing next anyway. If these people had any decency, they would put the school near the center and close all the schools at the same time. But then again, it couldn’t be the new Kittanning High School then, could it?

  • By jfullerton, August 10, 2012 @ 11:46 AM

    Random musings from my dining room table in Lancaster County:
    The $80 million should not have been borrowed in the first place. No one is forcing South Bend residents to leave, nor Apollo-Ridge from taking them. The money should not have to be paid back by the rest of the district. That is the $5.5 million.
    Anyone else think it is funny on how much the prices have changed from one board to the other with the same architect firm? Makes you wonder about how true any of it is. Not calling anyone a liar, but borrowing $80 million to fix up three buildings, being told a new building would cost well over $100 million and now coming in with a price tag of a little over $60 million (including athletic fields)
    Nice to see Dr. Chapp cooperating with others such as Apollo-Ridge, current board and Lenape Tech. I am happy for him that he found the true nature of education is for the students. Wonder if the fear of not having his contract renewed (like it was in Freeport) played into any of this? I know, cheap shot, but Dr. Chapp has not always been the easiest to work with.
    Royce, you should not be upset you were not invited. I remember committee meetings the old board held in the middle of the day to prevent board members who could not get off of work from attending. Wasn’t right then, probably is not right for you not to be there now.
    That’s all I have. I am sure the comments will come for me to mind my own business since I do not live there anymore. Oh well, still interested in education and I still have not seen how this will benefit the kids with more course offerings, or perhaps different course offerings. Ones that may prepare them for a future that is a little different than when you and I grew up.

  • By Jerri, August 10, 2012 @ 11:52 AM

    So let’s get this straight. The exact same architects and construction people estimated new athletic facilities at $10 million in spring 2011. Now over a year later, they say they’re “only” $3.7 million?

    And now they’re doing a Penn Dot study. Should be interesting to see how much we are going to pay to even up that hillside the buses are going to pull out on. If they’re going to force this on us, they should at least use common sense and provide more than one exit out of that place also. Has anyone ever tried to get out of the West Shamokin parking lot after an event? This will be much worse.

    It’s a shame that Mr. Smeltzer fell for the board’s tricks concerning South Bend. No tuition paid this year, extremely long shot at secession because there’s no way they’re going without debt, and getting them acclimated to West Shamokin for this year will all equal secession is probably not going to happen. It’s the same as the board closing Kittanning Township so quickly and the requirement of the Sherry and Hughes families (White’s very close friends)to have the new school underway within two years. It’s strictly politics. Split up HERO and get the school underway before the next school board election.

    Mr. Rearic was very adamant about referendum before. Why isn’t he now? Oh that’s right. He got what he wanted.

  • By worthingtonman, August 10, 2012 @ 4:38 PM

    @Royce Smeltzer

    Really Royce! Are you serious? They could have given the 80,000.000.00 back? At what cost? Are you really that out of touch with what happened, or do you think we the taxpayers, are stupid enough to buy that line. You insult the entire district when you say something completely stupid like that. It was your out of touch school board majority that borrowed 80,000,000.00 and reopened a previously closed school building. Your previous school board majority will go down in history as the most reckless spending out fit there has ever been. You do realize that the only reason you are probably even on this board now is because you were not up for re-election. And you make a comment like you did. That money should have never been borrowed. If not, we would not be having these conversations now. You should resign immediately and let someone sit on the board who will not make such a rediculous statement. Your board majority borrowed this money. You know for a fact it would cost this new board majority 40,000,000.00 to give it back and have nothing to show for this money. Hang your head and bow out now Royce. You continue to show that you really have no clue. No clue what so ever.

  • By asdgrad, August 10, 2012 @ 6:29 PM

    Hm another news source gave different numbers, so which is it? I think the students of south Bend should just hold on and try out West Shamokin again or for the first time and see what its like, if it is better, if not then try to go to Apollo Ridge.

  • By JornJensen, August 12, 2012 @ 9:31 PM

    Well, I’ve read these posts and of course, ASDpayer says full steam ahead for the new expanded Kittanning area high school. But, then some other posters say, hey, it should be more cetralized to the geographic district to serve the entire district better. Any of these posters that thinks this school board is working for us is dreaming – they are working for their own goals. Jeff Pyle and Don White have failed us. They stepped in and helped stop the spending to keep too many schools open, but they won’t step in on what this school board is doing. This school board is doing nothing to address the part of the district to the east, but the people to the east are expected to help pay fot this. Jeff and Don – where are you?

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