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State stalls Franklin career center renovation

October 22, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Department of Education stalled the Franklin County Career and Technology Center (FCCTC) renovation project this week, a move that could cost area school districts more money.

The department raised questions about the Chambersburg Area School District (CASD) building its own wing at the FCCTC, forcing the career center to halt plans to renovate its existing facility on Guilford Springs Road.

Josh Bower, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., architect Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, said the initial concept was for CASD's wing and the FCCTC renovation to be bid and built comprehensively.

The state, he said, felt the two should be separate.

Wanting to see CASD's proposed $22 million academic wing separated from the FCCTC project, the state's decision will lower reimbursement for the $15 million career center renovation and laboratory addition, he said.

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It also could skew the percentages each school district contributes toward the renovation project, FCCTC Administrative Director Jim Duffey said.

Bower told the career center's joint operating committee Thursday that it had three options when it came to the academic wing -- Chambersburg could move forward with an entirely separate project, the FCCTC could roll the addition into its plan or CASD could abandon the wing all together.

In 2008, the joint operating committee revised the percentages each school district will contribute to the project, raising Chambersburg's share to 57 percent to accommodate its additional investment in the academic center.

Committee Chairman Mike Shindle said having the projects done comprehensively increased the project's eligible reimbursement from the state.

"By doing these projects as one, we would have received more money from the state," he said.

For Chambersburg to receive a fair share of the reimbursement, the committee raised its contribution percentage and lowered the percentage of other districts.

However, with the state requiring the two projects be separated or rolled into one project by the FCCTC, Duffey said the committee will have to revert back to the old contribution percentages, which were based on student population.

Shindle said either way, it forces the remaining school districts -- Greencastle-Antrim, Waynesboro Area, Shippensburg and Tuscarora -- to pay more toward the renovation.

The change collectively would raise the other school districts' contributions by 15 percent. That 15 percent would be divided among the four school districts based on student population at FCCTC, Shindle said.

Some districts could be asked to initially pay as much as $700,000 more, Bower estimated.

Even though all of the school districts still back the $15 million renovation plan, the committee was not able to give Bower the go-ahead to readvertise for a public on the project, originally scheduled for July.

CASD Director David Sciamanna said he wanted to bring the issue back before his board to decide on the academic wing.

In order to break ground in the summer of 2010 and take advantage of low construction costs, Bower said he needs the committee to decide on readvertising no later than December.

CASD currently rents 10 classrooms from the FCCTC, Duffey said.

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