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Summit Health denies plea to preserve old Pa. school

July 06, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Summit Health Inc. has denied a request from the Waynesboro Historical Society for a 90-day moratorium on demolishing the former East Junior High School.

Supporters of preserving the building have plans for yet another appeal, according to Andrea Struble, a member of the society's Preservation Committee.

"The Waynesboro Hospital board of directors voted unanimously to bring the building down," said Sheran White, the director of Public Relations for Summit Health, an affiliation of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals. The historical society was notified of the decision Tuesday, she said.

The Waynesboro board took the vote last Wednesday, White said. Demolition will begin later this month.

Norman B. Epstein, president and chief executive officer of Summit Health, signed the letter to the society, which cited three reasons for denying the moratorium. The letter said Waynesboro Hospital "has explored many options to renovate the existing facility to support a combination of health and community service initiatives. The options proved to be cost prohibitive."

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"Its is our best estimate ... that it will cost up to $7 million to renovate the 65,000-square-foot facility to meet regulatory requirements and provide an attractive and functional environment," the letter stated.

The letter also stated there was interest in leasing only about one third of the building.

East Junior High was closed by the Waynesboro School District in 1989 and was purchased at auction the following year by Waynesboro Hospital for $500,000.

Struble said she drove by the school Tuesday and saw it surrounded by a chain-link fence. She said the society's Preservation Committee met Tuesday and is drafting a response to Summit Health's letter, "which will be, in effect, an 11th hour appeal for them to reconsider."

That response should be ready today, she said.

Last month, members of the society and Summit Health officials toured the empty school. The society brought along a Hanover, Pa., businessman who had played a major role in renovating a 1930s high school there into professional offices and a performing arts center.

"He said it was completely appropriate for conversion to a number of uses," Struble said about East Junior High.

The school is across East Main Street from Waynesboro Hospital. In June, White said the hospital had plans for some kind of health-related use for the land.

In the past, White said there had been discussions between Summit Health and Menno Haven to covert the school to senior citizen low-income housing. A needs study by an independent consultant, however, determined that the need for such a facility was not present.

Had the plan gone through, however, White said it "also required razing the building."

Parts of the old school will be preserved. The letter said the school's cupola, entry lamps and other artifacts will be turned over to the Waynesboro Area School District and the Waynesboro Area Business, Education and Community Foundation.

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