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Board to hire agent to help with land deals

October 13, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A real estate consultant will be hired by the Chambersburg Area School District to assist in land acquisitions after a deal to acquire acreage for a new high school apparently fell through earlier this week.

Board member Renee Sharpe requested the hiring of a consultant be added to the agenda at Wednesday's meeting and it was later passed by an 8-1 vote with board member Robert Helman casting the dissenting vote.

The meeting agenda originally included an administration request to authorize the district to sign contracts for the purchase of three tracts of land and an option to buy a fourth tract for a high school at a site north of Chambersburg. Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said Monday the three tracts comprised about 100 acres.

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Later that day, however, School Board President Craig Musser said one of the property owners involved in the proposed transaction balked at the deal.

"You can't make someone sell if they don't want to," board member Thomas Orndorf, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said after the meeting adjourned.

Orndorf said the longer the delay in acquiring the land for the school, the greater the cost, with the inflation rate for construction running at about 12 percent a year. The projected cost of the school is approximately $85 million and each month of delay is potentially adding about $1 million to the price tag, he said.

The same agenda item regarding the purchase of land for the high school also included a request to authorize the administration to begin negotiations to acquire 15 acres of land for a new elementary school at Grandview Elementary School or another site and to investigate expanding Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School.

The resolution stated the replacement for Grandview would have four or five classrooms in each grade, as would an expanded Stevens. Board member Eugene Gayman asked the motion be amended to eliminate reference to "five-deep" schools.

"Some of us compromised as to a four-deep school ... I will not compromise on five-deep," he said. Gayman said a task force on district building needs favored schools with three or fewer classrooms per grade.

Musser said he included the five-deep option in the resolution because of the district's growing student population and schools of that size might be required to meet the demands for classroom space.

Sharpe said considering five-deep schools gives the district "the flexibility to be able to manage our student population and class size."

Gayman's amendment failed on a 5-4 vote and the board passed the resolution on a 6-3 vote. Board members Robert Helman, David Sciamanna and Lori Leedy joined Musser, Orndorf and Sharpe in approving the resolution. Gayman and board members Stanley Helman and Fred Rice voted against the motion.

The Grandview and Stevens projects are not part of the resolution passed last year by the board to incur up to $116 million in debt to pay for a high school and replace U.L. Gordy and Fayetteville elementary schools. If the Grandview and Stevens projects go forward, Musser said a new Grandview would open in 2010 and an expanded Stevens in 2011.

The board approved issuing $38 million in bonds to fund construction of Gordy and Fayetteville, expanding Hamilton Heights and the purchase of land for a high school.

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