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Residents say they researched James Buchanan High School project before voting on it

September 10, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- Voters participating Tuesday in the Tuscarora School District's special election overwhelmingly seemed to have their opinions decided before arriving at the polls, with many saying they had been researching the issue through the media and public meetings.

Even if people did not agree with Venus Plessinger's stance, she hoped that they joined her in taking the time to learn about the potential $35 million renovation of James Buchanan High School and vote how they felt best.

"It's all about children," she said.

Plessinger said the school definitely needs plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work.

"A lot of it's starting with the basics," said Plessinger, who has a student in the middle school, one in the high school and one who recently graduated.

The 10,443 registered voters in the school district were given the opportunity to vote yes or no concerning the school board's borrowing of $35 million to renovate and expand the high school. Included in the school board's proposal was replacing mechanical systems, adding nine classrooms and two large group areas, replacing the roof, and repairing or replacing several athletic facilities including the track, pool and tennis courts.

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"I think they're ridiculously asking for too much money. What have they done with all the other money over the past 10 years?" Leonard Painter asked.

Painter, of St. Thomas, Pa., said he feels like he's being robbed when he pays more than $500 per year in property taxes for his mobile home. The 1977 graduate of James Buchanan High School said he sees little in need of repair at the building.

"I think they just want to compete with Chambersburg," Painter said, referring to the $73.8 million building project in that school district.

"We need it," said Scott Sanders, also of St. Thomas. "I did some research and saw the costs were about in line with what other states and schools are paying."

Sanders has children involved with the swimming program, which would have benefited from pool upgrades.

A group of senior citizens who voted immediately after Sanders said they, too, felt the building needed repairs, although they would have preferred those been done before they worsened.

"They should've done a lot of repairs on the school a long time ago, but I voted yes because we need to get things done now. ... I don't want my taxes going up either, but we need to fix the school," said Jim Hinkle, who said students cannot learn in a building where they have brown drinking water.

Zane Bitterfield said he has concerns when illiterate young people arrive at his St. Thomas farm looking for work.

"I'm very concerned about education," Bitterfield said.

While his own children already finished their schooling, Bitterfield went to the polls because he thinks it's important to vote in any election. He selected yes in an effort to improve the quality of education.

"Everyone has different opinions now with our property values falling like a stone," Bitterfield said. "I don't think (some people) can afford any initiative."

Lauren Heckman, whose husband, Glenn, was a Peters Township supervisor for 42 years, compared school upkeep to what the supervisors would do on roads. The high school should have been maintained on an ongoing basis like roads, she said.

"I think it's important our public buildings are taken care of," Lauren Heckman said. "Our children are the next generation."

"I served on the steering committee, and it didn't take me long to realize something needed to be done at the school," said Micah Meyers of Lemasters, Pa.

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