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Borough, school board road flap could lead to lawsuits

August 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- A looming deadline in negotiations between the Waynesboro Area School Board and Waynesboro Borough Council was pushed back Tuesday, when both sides agreed the town's high school could open for classes next week under a 45-day occupancy permit.

Borough and school officials have been bickering about extending Third Street to the bigger and newly renovated Waynesboro Area Senior High School. The presidents of both boards confirmed to The Herald-Mail that lawsuits could be forthcoming.

"We're spending taxpayers' money on attorneys," said Craig Newcomer, president of the borough council.

At issue is a driveway that would extend Third Street from its current dead end to the back of the high school.

Newcomer said the driveway is shown on land development plans. However, the cash-strapped school board did not set aside money for the paving in 2009-10.

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A nearly three-year, $46 million renovation and expansion of the high school will be completed in the coming months.

Both boards scheduled special meetings for Tuesday and spent the vast majority of that time in closed-door discussions. The borough council offered a temporary occupancy permit with seven conditions at 5 p.m., and the school board accepted it with two revisions at 8 p.m.

"We're hoping this is a period of time when we can reach a consensus," said K. Marilyn Smith, president of the school board.

Borough occupancy permits are issued through Accredited Services Inc., but the borough council has input in ensuring all provisions are met. Without an occupancy permit, people could not legally use the school for Monday's start of the academic year.

Newcomer said the school board needs to "be treated as if they're anyone else," and he shared concerns about what could happen if a catastrophe near Second Street would require evacuation of students and staff out the rear of the building.

"We'd be liable because we allowed them to occupy without completing Third Street," he said.

Newcomer said he's attempted to meet with the school board for a year and a half without its members agreeing to talk.

When asked why he'd say that, Smith said "beats me" and referred the question to the board's solicitor, James Flower Jr. Flower said he's had good discussions with the borough's solicitor, but disagreements about the law "at some point the court might be asked to figure out."

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