Board delays decision on making Pa. high school a backup shelter

January 26, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A request to use Waynesboro Area Senior High School as a backup location for Waynesboro Hospital in an emergency led to division among the school board this week.

On Tuesday, board President Ed Wilson and a couple of other members asked for more time before approving a memorandum of understanding with the hospital.

Board member Bonnie Bachtell said the agreement should be in place as soon as possible, and others agreed with her.

"As a part of the community, we should be there for people," board member K. Marilyn Smith said.

The American Red Cross already has a shelter agreement for the high school, so that should be reviewed to determine if it conflicts, board member Chris Lind said. Other considerations include utilities, such as electricity used for X-ray machines, he said.

Lind questioned how school would be held if the building was being used by other entities. Other board members said school would be canceled during a disaster, but Lind said the agreement would affect issues more centralized to the hospital.

"Should we cancel school because the hospital had a fire? I don't think so. ... It needs to say we can still use the building," Lind said.

Board member Pat Heefner said part of the justification for building the high school to its size, 288,000 square feet, was its ability to be used as a community space and fallout shelter. Smith said the high school has large enough core facilities like the gymnasium and auditorium to accommodate groups of people.

"I just hesitate we build this fence around it and call it our own," Heefner said.

"This is not the general public. This is the hospital," Lind said, saying the hospital bills patients for services.

Solicitor James Flower said the memorandum of understanding before the board was designed to establish a basic agreement, not one with every issue covered.

"I'll meet with the hospital to iron out these details," Superintendent James Robertson said.

Smith said she was working with the American Red Cross when a hurricane threatened the integrity of the dam at Fort Ritchie. She said the American Legion post was the largest available facility, and school was canceled.

"We have the place now where we can support that kind of catastrophe," she said.

Wilson said the agreement will pass eventually, but it needs more time for review.

"We need to look at the overall plan," board member Sherry Cline said.

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