District will give fields to Franklin
A view of Christman Field on Tuesday morning. Lehighton Area School District voted Monday to transfer the fields to Franklin Township. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Richard Beltz had twice before voted against transferring Christman Field from Lehighton Area School District ownership to Franklin Township.
On Monday night, however, the LASD director’s vote in the affirmative ended a three-plus month debate over the future of the fields used by the Franklin Township Athletic Association.
The school board voted 6-3, gaining the necessary two-thirds majority to give the fields to the township at no cost with a clause that they revert to district ownership should they cease to be used for recreational use in the future.
“I don’t necessarily feel like it is the right decision, but we need to move beyond this,” Beltz said.
The transfer will not include the soccer fields directly behind Franklin Elementary School, which was a determining factor in Beltz changing his vote.
Resident Barbara Bose said she was concerned if the soccer fields were also transferred, the school would lose value when the district tries to sell the building.
“What is the school worth with no parking?” she said. “I’m a taxpayer and that concerns me and a lot of other people.”
With the township now looking at owning Christman Field, Supervisors’ Chairman Jason Frey said the municipality is willing to foot the subdivision bill of what is estimated to be around $4,000. The subdivision would split the four baseball and softball fields from the parcel that includes the school and soccer fields.
For several decades, the township has leased the fields from the district for $1 per year and, in turn, allowed Franklin Township Athletic Association to use them.
Last month, the district voted to continue that lease, which would have to be renewed every year, but supervisors were not willing to pay the subdivision cost for a piece of land they did not know the status of more than a year at a time.
“Franklin Township has always been gracious to offer those fields to the kids of our community and beyond to keep them healthy, active and away from things that can get them in trouble,” LASD board member Andrew Yenser said. “This transfer takes the what-ifs out of it for them. They don’t have to worry year to year what the school board is going to do.”
Voting against the transfer for the third time were David Bradley, Joy Beers and Gail Maholick.
Bradley has repeatedly advocated against “giving away a district asset.”
“I think a referendum would be valuable,” he said Monday. “The district owns the property now and the kids can use it. The district doesn’t have to spend any money to let those kids use it. I don’t agree with taking an asset and just giving it to another entity. We have a responsibility to the people who elected us.”
Speaking on behalf of the FTAA, Kevin O’Donnell said the organization remained in favor of the transfer to the township. The nonprofit, he said, had done its due diligence.
“There have been meetings and petitions from over 300 taxpayers,” he said. “The community wants a transfer. Let’s get something done.”