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Coaldale Complex to undergo extensive inspection

Published July 14. 2010 05:00PM

The former Coaldale High School, now known as the Coaldale Complex, will undergo a thorough top-to-bottom, inside-and-out inspection by borough engineers Alfred Benesch & Associates at a cost of $3,800.

Council on Tuesday approved the expenditure; a date for the inspection has yet to be decided upon.

Councilman Tom Keeran cast the sole opposing vote; Councilman Joe Hnat abstained.

The massive light brick complex, at Sixth and W. Phillips streets, has been the source of much contention at council meetings. Councilman Andrew Girard in June asked council to have it inspected. His request followed a lengthy debate about the building's safety.

Council expects the inspection to help it determine whether it should take over operations of the building from the Coaldale Complex Commission, which several council members have suggested has become lax in its duties, or sell or even demolish the building.

The study, said Mayor Richard Corkery, will help the borough "find out if we have a building that might have to be closed."

Councilwoman Nancy Lorchak wondered where the borough would get the money to repair the building.

Corkery and Councilman David Yelito, who lives across the street from the complex, say the building is in dangerously bad shape. Hnat said he believes the building is structurally sound.

The building and the 1.61 acres of land it sits on has a fair market value of $369,270 and an assessed value of $184,635, according to Schuylkill County property tax records. The borough acquired the building, built in 1922, from the Coaldale School Board in 1974, according to the records.

The school board closed the building in 1964 when the Panther Valley School District formed; it now houses a Carbon County Head Start program, which is remodeling its ground floor space in anticipation of an Early head Start program that will serve an additional eight children.

Corkery and Yelito said the second and third floors and the exterior, are in deteriorated condition. Corkery said one exterior wall is bulging outward, and that program director Bernetta Frantz had closed a playground on that side of the building for safety reasons.

Frantz, who attended the meeting with another Head Start employee, did not respond.

The complex has been the source of much debate. On June 7, Rick Harmon of Barry Isett & Associates inspected the old school to see if it met building codes as part of Head Start's renovations. Corkery and Yelito asked Harmon to point out what they believe are hazardous areas of deterioration. Harmon sent a letter to council that week, listing several areas that he believes need to be addressed. Solicitor Michael Greek said at the June 14 council meeting that Benesch would inspect the building for structural defects; Harmon's inspection was to see if it met maintenance code requirements.

In other matters Tuesday, council, at Police Chief Tim Delaney's request, named police officer Todd Weiss the department's criminal investigator. It also authorized a cable franchise agreement with Blue Ridge Cable Technologies, Inc. Under the agreement, Blue Ridge Cable will construct, install, maintain, extend and operate a cable system in the borough.

Council also voted to move a sign at the complex playground advising dog owners to clean up after their pets on Phillips Street, where people apparently need to be reminded to do that.

No dogs are allowed on the playground; a new sign will be installed there to that effect.

Council also discussed the wave of vandalism that has hit the borough recently, particularly at the complex park. The lights in the park may be kept on later to combat the problem.

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