Meadville Tribune

Local News

September 16, 2013

Move to East End would save $2.1M reimbursement

VERNON TOWNSHIP — In a move designed to salvage approximately $2.1 million in state reimbursement for renovations to the now-closed school, Crawford Central School District administrators may soon be calling the building formerly known as East End Elementary School home.

Following a presentation by HHSDR Architects/Engineers, Crawford Central School Board is mulling whether to move all or some of the district’s administrative offices to the Walnut Street facility. In either case, Dec. 1 is the deadline for at least 50 percent of the building to be in use as a public school — which includes administration offices. If the deadline is met, Pennsylvania Department of Education has agreed to reinstate the construction reimbursement subsidy that would have been lost if the building had been put to another use.

The bottom line, according to Superintendent Charlie Heller, is simple.

“We cannot reinstate the reimbursement without the administration moving,” Heller told the board Monday night, noting that at least 50 percent of the space must be filled by something benefiting Crawford Central students. “Our whole motivation is to recoup the $2.1 million. We’re trying to save the reimbursement.”

By the end of the 2012-22 fiscal year, the reinstated reimbursement on the project will bring an additional $2,167,527 into district coffers according to figures presented by Business Manager Guy O’Neil Monday night during the board’s monthly work session.

According to the presentation by architect Vince Ordinario, plans call for four organizations including Crawford Central to occupy the building.

PDE officials have already advised Superintendent Charlie Heller that the portion of the building to be used as the Crawford Central district administration office (approximately 72 percent) and portion to be used by Twin Creeks Head Start, a public prekindergarten program (approximately 8 percent), both qualify to be counted toward the 50-percent use of the building as a public school that will allow the school construction reimbursement subsidy to be reinstated.

PDE also noted that the portion of the building used by Crawford County READ program (approximately 13 percent) would not qualify since it’s a post-secondary program and the portion used by Creating Landscapes Learning Center (approximately 8 percent) would not qualify because it’s a private school program.

Under Option 1, all district administrators would move to East End at an estimated cost of $386,000. Almost half of that figure will be to make necessary changes in the building’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and electrical systems. No increase in the number of parking spaces available at the facility were included in the plans. This is the plan given the go-ahead by PDE as qualifying for reimbursement reinstatement.

Under Option 2, the offices of the superintendent and business manager as well as the entire buildings and grounds department would remain at the current Instructional Support Center on Mercer Pike while other administrative offices, probably including a satellite office for the superintendent, would move to the former East End. The estimated cost for this option is $143,000.

Both Heller and the board expressed a preference for Option 2, primarily because of a lack of parking and general public accessibility as well as a shortage of space, especially for public meetings, at the former East End. Because this plan was only hatched last week at Heller’s request, PDE has not yet evaluated its reimbursement acceptability. However, with the Dec. 1 deadline looming, the board appeared ready to give Option 2 the go-ahead — pending PDE approval — during its upcoming monthly meeting, which will begin Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the current instructional support center.

Either way, the district’s maintenance equipment will have to remain in its current location at the instructional support center.

“The current (administration) building is worth a heck of a lot more to the school district than to anyone else,” school board member Rob Smith said.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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