The Board of Directors of the Armstrong School District (ASD) held a special public meeting yesterday afternoon to decide on a buyer for the former Kittanning Senior High School property.
The property includes the building and parking lot that is situated on 8.33 acres in Kittanning Borough’s Fourth Ward. The sale did not include the football field, which Superintendent Chris DeVivo said was leased out to the Richard G. Snyder YMCA.
Letters of interest were received by Emerald City Gymnastics that currently operates a center at 138 South Grant Avenue in Kittanning, Living Water Church that has a worship facility in the former Knights of Columbus Hall on Orr Avenue in Kittanning, and Harvest Community Church that has facilities in East Franklin Township.
A motion was made by Director Tim Scaife and seconded by Director Amy Lhote to sell the property to Emerald Gymnastics for $27,111.
“This resolution is approving the agreement of sale,” Solicitor Lee Price explained. “We then are committed to receiving court approval. It’s not final until court approval.”
Director Douglas Smith inquired about subdivision of the property. Since ASD is not selling the football field, the property must be subdivided prior to the close of the sale. Solicitor Lee Price said action would have to be taken by both Kittanning Borough and the Armstrong County Planning Department to approve the subdivision, but didn’t feel there would be any issue. The property is currently divided physically by Orr Avenue.
“A simple subdivision is usually pretty pro forma once the surveyor files the division of that property,” Price told Smith. Price said the closing would be within 30 days after approval by the courts and the subdivision.
Director Reardon Mulroy questioned the reasoning for selling the property to the gymnastics center when he thought there was an offer of $100,000 by Harvest Community Church.
DeVivo said the offers were vetted by both the school district and council members of Kittanning Borough. Both felt Emerald had a strong long term plan that would be beneficial to the community.
“The train was moving down the tracks at the point (when both Living Water and Harvest Church wrote letters of interest),” DeVivo said. “We already had a verbal commitment we made to Emerald City in a negotiated sale. Harvest inquiry came late, although we did have discussions with them regarding their level of interest. The Board felt it should honor Emerald that had been (in the process) since the beginning.”
The vote was taken. Smith, Scaife, Dr. Paul Lobby, Chris Choncek, and Lhote voted in favor of the sale to Emerald City. Mulroy objected.
“I thought there may have been another offer out there that was higher than $27,000,” Mulroy said following the meeting. “For my own satisfaction, I was looking out to see that we could get as much (money) as we could for the tax payers. That was my reason for voting no.”
Smith felt it was necessary to make a move now.
“It’s important that we get (the property) off the books, just like the Ford City site and the (Kittanning) Junior High. We are not in the real estate business. (Emerald City Gymnastics) appear on paper as having a good idea that in 7 years will put everything back on the tax rolls. The other (groups) were tax exempt.”
Sara McCoy, 37, is the director for Emerald City Gym. She said the business has 600 members and they have a vision for the school that she once attended.
“We’re going to make it a one-stop shop community for all sports for ages from birth to 90 – programs for everybody. We have some businesses coming in to rent space in some of the classrooms – all health and wellness oriented. There are martial arts, dance, etc. For the auditorium, right now we have an agreement with Armstrong Community Theater, but we will also do special things in the winter like community movies.”
McCoy said they believe they can be up and running from the school property within a week after the closing.
McCoy’s mother, Tammy Nulph, was four years old when she began gymnastics. She made it a career in 1977 when she started the gymnastics program at the YMCA. She stayed with the YMCA until her retirement in 2000. But in less than a year, she opened a facility in the Lower Burrell area before moving it to the old G. C. Murphy building on Market Street. In 2009, she moved her gym to its current location on South Grant Avenue. Now 59 years old, she is ready to work with her daughter in the administration of the school property.
Assuming minimal delay, Emerald Gymnastics could be operating from the school property as early as mid-November.
Watch the ASD directors make their decision below.