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Time running out in Palmerton on spending grant balance

Published March 05. 2010 05:00PM

The clock continues to tick on the amount of time Palmerton Area School District has to spend the balance of a $1 million grant.

Superintendent Carol Boyce informed members of the school board's Buildings and Grounds Committee on Wednesday that the district has until June 30 to spend what's left of the grant.

However, Boyce said she will attempt to apply for an extension to give the district more time to spend the money.

Discussion of the grant came into play after committee member Carol Dwyer asked about the status of the stairs at S.S. Palmer Elementary.

Boyce told Dwyer the district has $10,000 set aside in the grant to pay for the stairs. However, she said a cost estimate for the stairs came in it at $23,000.

As of two weeks ago, Boyce said the balance of the grant is $175,000 from projects already completed that came in under budget.

She then read off a list of projects where money from the grant has been committed, but not yet accomplished.

Boyce said money is set aside in the grant to: replace the intercom system at S.S. Palmer ($35,000); buy new furniture districtwide ($55,720); replace the steps at S.S. Palmer ($10,000); and replace the high school stage ($50,000).

Dwyer then asked whether Johnson Controls of Wilkes-Barre, with whom the district is entered into a 15-year energy conservation project with, could be approached.

"Couldn't they be doing some things to save us money?

Committee member Barry Scherer agreed with Dwyer.

Dwyer then suggested the committee speak with former school Director Cindy Gasper since she helped spearhead the grant.

Committee member Susan Debski said she had no problem with the idea.

"I think that we have this now, and it's time to make some kind of decision," Debski said. "The time is now."

Scherer then said he would like to see a complete account of the grant, which the district procured last year from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, with the help of Speaker of the House Keith McCall.

The committee agreed to ask Gasper to attend next month's buildings and grounds committee meeting to discuss the grant.

Also on Wednesday, the committee received a list of projects compiled by Dave Rodrigues, director of facilities.

Rodrigues characterized the projects under the criteria of urgent, critical, important, intermediate, and long-term.

But, Rodrigues said the list is not complete, nor comprehensive, and noted it would likely change accordingly.

"It's a work in progress, and can be tweaked as deemed necessary," Rodrigues said.

He said the projects may be moved to different budget years if not considered for the current year, while estimated costs will need to change as they get moved.

In other building-related items, Rodrigues said the generator inside S.S. Palmer has failed.

He said the generator has experienced mechanical issues in recent years, and that the cost to replace it would be about $25,000.

In an unrelated matter, Rodrigues told the committee Towamensing Elementary owes money for trash collection.

He said Towamensing Township contacted the district to notify them that they inadvertently haven't billed the school for trash since 2006.

Rodrigues said the amount of money the district would owe is between $5,400 to $5,700.

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