Penn Forest Township Supervisor Chairman Paul Montemuro was on hand for Monday's meeting of the Jim Thorpe Area School District's Board of Education to share news about the new recreational area grant that will benefit students in the area and to lobby for a new school building in the township. Penn Forest just won a $225,000 grant to develop a new park on State Route 903, which Montemuro said would serve residents in Kidder Township, Penn Forest Township, Jim Thorpe Borough and the school district.
Montemuro said that township officials were initially told that the grants would top out at about $150,000 and so supervisors downgraded their plans for a park on the 30-plus acres the school board donated to the township last year. But the grant proposal didn't go as planned.
"When (Pennsylvania) Senator (David) Argyll saw a project that combined two townships, a borough and a school district, our project went to the top of the chart," Montemuro told the board. Instead of the $150,000 the borough was hoping for, it received a check from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for $225,000. Plans for the park have been upgraded and Montemuro promised school board members that he would have the project ready to break ground by spring.
Montemuro said that Penn Forest Township has already engaged the grantwriter to begin the grant proposal for phase II, which he says Speaker of the House Keith McCall is eager to see before he leaves office in December.
He also urged the school board to carefully consider where it would put its new school building. As of this week, over 500 surveys have been downloaded from the school district's website, but no preliminary data was released to the public at Monday's meeting.
"Go back 20 years and see what the school district was like 20 years ago," Montemuro suggested to the board. "Then go 20 years ahead and add it again and that's a ballpark for what you're going to need. Now, consider the turnpike opening up. Penn Forest supervisors, and I'm chairman of the board, will definitely be behind a new school at Bear Creek Lakes. It's central to the distirct and its central in our township."
"You have 150-some acres over there and its foolish not to use it," Montemuro told the board. "You've spent millions on the plans for the new sewage treatment plant and the irrigation plant. I've already talked to my engineer and it's nothing but bringing that work up to date. There's nothing better than having these playing fields at your back door and the township is already getting all of this grant money to put them in."
Previously, the board had voted to request bids for a commercial appraiser to provide a value on the property to be used in the event the board chose to sell off the Bear Creek Lakes parcel. Two bids were received for that work. One bid was submitted by a company that the district had worked with in the past and was recommended by the administration, despite a cost that was $700 higher than the other bid. The board voted not to hire that company and passed a second motion to send the job to James Shober, an appraiser from Summit Hill for $500.
The board has yet to decide on the location for the new school.