Eldred gets residents' input on former elementary school
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Bill Walters, a resident of Eldred Township, voices concerns about the township purchasing Eldred Elementary School at a public meeting Monday night at the Kunkletown Vol. Fire Co.
Eldred Township supervisors held a public meeting Monday night at the Kunkletown Volunteer Fire Company to find out if residents wanted the township to buy the building and to explore possible uses.
Chairman Gretchen Gannon Pettit told an audience of about 50 residents that if Eldred Township does not accept the offer to buy the Eldred Elementary School for $1 from the Pleasant Valley School District, the building will be put up for auction.
The district told the township the 10-room building on a 5-acre lot has had a good water test and new oil boilers installed in 1998. The adjacent ball field is on 1.7 acres. There is no air conditioning and would take about $5,000 per room to install. The yearly insurance is $3,250.
"Eldred will have our engineer do an inspection if we decide to move forward," said Sharon Solt, Eldred supervisor/secretary.
Residents questioned the condition of the roof. The district told Eldred there were no leaks but the supervisors heard conflicting reports.
"Our inspection would probably address that," Gannon Pettit said.
The average cost to heat the building is $22,000 a year, and electricity averages $10,482.66 a year.
Residents asked about the impact on taxes. Gannon Pettit said, "Nothing. If we get tenants, we'd break even."
One resident asked, "Are you going to guarantee me that my taxes won't go up?" and Gannon Pettit replied, "I can't guarantee anything."
The township would not be able to resell the building. Township solicitor Michael Kaspszyk said, "The township has to revert it back to PV if it decides it no longer wants it."
Gannon Pettit said grants are available and West End Park & Open Space Commission's director Bernie Kozen would be able to help the township apply for grants.
Can the school district take it back, residents asked. Kaspszyk said it could, if the population of the district exploded, but it would open Polk first.
Resident Bill Walters said, "The school has a flat roof, which is a problem. It has single-pane windows. It's not adequately insulated. I'm totally in favor of trying to find a use for it but I don't think just having the YMCA as a tenant is going to do it," he said.
Kaspszyk said he looked into having a feasibility study done but the cost is prohibitive.
Supervisor Vice Chairman Mary Ann Clausen said that the district gave the figures of $50,000 to $70,000 a year for maintaining the school. Last year it cost $40,000. Assuming the YMCA remains a tenant at $475 a month, it could come down to $30,000 a year.
Clausen looked at the municipal building's yearly maintenance cost, which is $4,500 a year. But at $40,000 a year, "We don't have that in our budget. I don't think we even have $20,000 in surplus."
Solt said she'd like to see the school become an urgent care center. Gannon Pettit thought it would make a great day-care center. Darcy Gannon thought it could make a good farmer's market.
Some other suggestions from residents were: a community center, a senior center or a walk-in clinic.
A resident noted that if any work needs to be done on the building, the township would have to pay prevailing wage, which can be costly.
Linda Kile asked if any businesses have contacted the township about it. The answer was no. Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network had taken a tour of the school and said it was not interested in moving into it.
Mike Green said he didn't think any business would want to go into a building that did not have air conditioning. He also said that the 10,000 gallons of oil in the ground was dangerous and a huge liability.
"I love the idea of us getting the building but, I don't think the district is in that big of a hurry. I'd do more investigating," Green said.
Leon Barlieb wanted to know if the township could just obtain the Little League ball field, and Gannon Pettit said the district will not break the ball field apart from the building.
Vernon Barlieb asked about the appraisal of the building. Kaspszyk said the district won't give it to the township.
Bob Boileau said that sends up a red flag.
Pocono Family YMCA Director, Matt Rumph, said the Y is barely breaking even at $475 a month.
Dave Mitchell asked what the downside would be if the district sells the school to someone other than the township.
Gannon Pettit said, "We won't know who our neighbors would be."
Mitchell said, "If the school district sold it to a business that would bring in tax revenue. I don't see what the downside would be."
Vernon Barlieb said that maybe in 50 years the building wouldn't be there anymore, but the land would be and he'd like to see the township in control of the land.
Rich Salter, the township constable and an Eldred resident, said he'd like to see this question as a voter referendum in November. Gannon Pettit said that they didn't have that kind of time.
Irene Zacharias said she thought there should be another town meeting and Gannon Pettit again said they didn't have the time for another meeting.
Solt said that for the last 10 years, the township has had $100,000 surplus each year and believed the township could apply for grants from the Local Share Assessment (from the gaming funds.)
Helen Mackes said the Eldred Township Historical Society has received $42,000 in grants to renovate the old Post Office and thinks the township would be able to do that for the Eldred school.
Walters, who owned Walters Oil Company in Easton, said after the meeting that he didn't think the township has done its due diligence.
"I think it could be a viable project. I think they're (supervisors) being driven by their hearts and need to be driven by their pocketbooks. If there was a leak in the roof, there would be thousands and thousands of dollars in costs."
Clausen said, "A lot of good ideas were exchanged here tonight and I think people listened to each other. We have a lot of thinking to do. I am concerned about the finances. The carrying charges are high with only one tenant. I like the suggestion of waiting until we have a business plan."
Gannon Pettit wants the Eldred school building for the community.
"I'm not worried about making money. We're a nonprofit entity," she said.