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Proposal would consolidate Franklin County career center renovations, construction of CASD academic wing

July 10, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Tackling renovations to the Franklin County Career and Technology Center and construction of an academic wing for the Chambersburg Area School District as one project instead of two could lower costs and increase state reimbursement, but Chambersburg officials say much homework lies ahead.

"There is a way to do it under the (Franklin County) Technical School Authority ... to save local taxpayer dollars for all the school districts," Chambersburg Business Manager Rick Vensel said Wednesday.

Waynesboro School Board President Stanley Barkdoll on Tuesday briefed his board about this latest proposal to consolidate the projects, expressing concerns that the state has no reimbursement "mechanism" for the two-project approach.

All the districts had approved a $15 million plan to renovate the center and sell Chambersburg acreage to build a $22 million academic wing, Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. Chambersburg, however, has another option that could benefit all the districts, he said.

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A percentage of the cost of renovating the center would be eligible for state reimbursement, while the academic wing would get a lower reimbursement, Vensel said. The amount of reimbursement money could be higher for a project, he said.

"That's because it changes the classification to a full comprehensive high school for both projects," Vensel said. Reimbursement figures have yet to be nailed down, one of several questions needing to be answered, he said.

"The municipal requirements for constructing one building are less restrictive than for constructing two," Vensel said. Barkdoll said Tuesday that Guilford Township might require setbacks between an academic wing owned by Chambersburg and the center.

Instead of two contracts and possibly two contractors, the job could also be done more efficiently with one contractor, Vensel said.

Cost savings or higher reimbursements realized by this option would be shared by all the districts, Vensel said. Instead of buying the 12 acres and placing that money in an escrow account, the value of the land for the academic wing would be figured into Chambersburg's lease, Vensel said.

"The authority is the one to bless this project and the districts will have to bless all the changes to let the authority do it," Vensel said. The authority, which owns the center, would issue the bonds and do the construction, leasing the academic wing to Chambersburg and the rest of the building to the career center, he said.

Chambersburg would pay for all of the academic wing, as well as its prorated share of about 48 percent for the center, Vensel said.

Getting the Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Tuscarora, Shippensburg and Fannett-Metal districts to agree on the center's future has been difficult. Chambersburg first proposed buying the center with the other districts sending students on a tuition basis.

Other school boards balked at giving up control exercised through the center's Joint Operating Committee. An alternative was developed to renovate the center and sell land to Chambersburg for the academic wing.

The latest plan was outlined at a recent meeting of administrators from the districts, along with attorneys, architects and financial consultants, Padasak said. Vensel said he will be meeting with the business managers for the other districts to hammer out details.

If the respective boards do not get behind the plan, Vensel said the two-project plan is still viable.

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