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Palmerton district attempts to fund expensive projects

Published July 08. 2010 05:00PM

Exactly how Palmerton Area School District will afford to pay for several big ticket items remains to be seen.

Dave Rodrigues, director of facilities, discussed funding considerations at a workshop of the board of directors on Tuesday.

Rodrigues said the high school roof, bleacher weight room, and steps at S.S. Palmer Elementary were among the chief areas of concern.

Superintendent Carol Boyce then told the committee a decision on the high school roof has been long overdue.

"I think we really need a decision," Boyce said. "What is it you would like to do with the high school roof."

Committee member Barry Scherer then asked whether the board should take out a bond to afford the roof, as well as several other projects.

But, committee member Carl Bieling didn't see how that was possible.

"How can the board say to get a bond without knowing how much," Bieling said. "I don't just borrow $8 million and say we'll pay for it [when we can]."

Regardless, committee member Susan Debski said the board needs to arrive at a decision.

"These are issues at some point; we have wants and needs," Debski said. "I think the best thing to do is know what you want."

Scherer then asked business manager Lisa Vignone whether she could come up with projections on a $3 million bond and a $5 million bond over a three-year and five-year period.

Bieling reiterated his concern.

"My big problem is can we pay for it," Bieling said. "Do you think if we have to go out for referendum, the taxpayers will support it?

Last month, the committee met with Alan Behnke of Tremko Roofing to again discuss the high school roof. Behnke said the cost to restore the leaky roof would be about $583,090, and would include the restoration of the boiler room roof. On the other hand, he said the cost to replace the roof would be about $2 million.

Committee member Carol Dwyer then suggested at that time that the district use its fund balance to pay for the project.

But, Boyce said the district had $1,799,151 left in its fund balance at that time. Of that, Boyce said $1 million would have to be used to balance the budget, which would leave about $600,000 for the roof and $200,000 for other projects.

The weightroom roof is also in dire need of repair, said Behnke, who noted that the roof cannot be done until the bleacher system is addressed. He said the cost to replace the roof would be about $133,076. Or, the district could do a combined project that would cost $350,000; $200,000 for the bleachers, and $150,000 for the roof, Behnke said.

Dwyer then suggested the district build a pole building instead, but Behnke said dong so would cost anywhere from $1 million to $1.75 million.

Behnke told the committee that if the board were to commit to the project by its June 15 meeting, the high school roof could be done this summer.

Last month, the board approved Godshall Kane Architects to produce a set of drawings and specifications to fix the steps at the S.S Palmer Elementary building side located by Third Street at a cost not to exceed $1,000.

Boyce previously said the district has $10,000 set aside in the Mccall grant to fix the steps.

Also last month, the board agreed to refinance the 2005 bond issue. The $6 million bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2016.

In other business, Rodrigues announced that as of this coming Monday, the district will utilize the work release program through the Carbon County Department of Corrections.

Boyce said the workers will perform labor, such as lawn care and field preparation in locations where no children are present. The district will provide them with lunch, she said.

"They have a highly developed screening process, and there will be no more than three prisoners at a time with a supervisor accompanying them," Boyce said. "They are never left unsupervised."

Boyce said the district is "very pleased" to be working with Frank Shubeck, work release director.

"This is a program that is used nationwide, and has been met with a high degree of success," she said. "The borough has used it."

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