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Board, Mercersburg residents get look at $36.9 million high school plan

Work on James Buchanan High would be completed by 2012

Work on James Buchanan High would be completed by 2012

April 01, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Architects from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates presented plans Monday night for a $36.9 million renovation of James Buchanan High School.

The renovation, which would be completed by 2012, would include a balcony addition to the auditorium, a new swimming pool and various upgrades throughout the campus.

The proposed balcony would add nearly 400 seats to the auditorium, making it large enough to seat the entire student body. Currently, the auditorium seats 608.

The firm debated whether to build a new auditorium, or simply renovate the existing structure. But a new auditorium would cost twice as much as a renovation project.

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"We pulled back on a number of things to reduce the cost of the project," said Crabtree, Rohrbaugh representative Jeff Straub. "We tried to renovate or reuse as much of the building as possible."

Angie Troupe was one of 125 members of the community to attend the special school board meeting in the JB auditorium. She commended the idea to reuse rather than rebuild.

"I think we need to be good stewards," Troupe said. "This building has good bones. It is not a throwaway building."

Bill Landis rebutted by pointing out that a new facility would cost only 25 percent more - Crabtree, Rohrbaugh estimated the a cost of about $49 million.

There were varying opinions among community members who spoke up at the meeting. But those who spoke in favor of the renovation project garnered the most applause.

"We need to look at our children. This is going to make things a lot better for the students," Troupe said. "That should be the top priority."

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh came to the decision to construct a new swimming pool, pointing out that the cost of renovating the existing pool would be only a few hundred thousand dollars cheaper.

By constructing a new pool, Straub said, the high school would meet PIAA regulations for swim meets. Also, the area for the existing pool would be converted to an auxiliary physical education space.

Those areas would be part of a "YMCA-type" wing to the school, open to the community. The project would also upgrade other athletic facilities, including a six-lane track at Rocket Stadium - currently there is no track on the high school campus.

One of the main themes of the presentation was energy conservation and the push to "Go green." By this approach, the firm presented plans to increase the amount of natural light in the school and to correct heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) problems.

The renovation would also address a brown water problem that has developed in the 35-year-old facility, which has resulted in stains, rusty faucets and inoperable facilities.

A preliminary estimate slated the renovation to cost taxpayers $279 per year, while the state Department of Education would provide a reimbursement of about $5.5 million - about 15 percent of the total cost. More specific financial details will be discussed at the next Tuscarora School District board meeting on April 14, when the district will meet with a financial consultant.

The project is expected to be voted on in a referendum this fall.

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