Following the election of new Daniel Boone School Board member Richard Martino, Douglassville, to board president on Dec. 2, Martino initiated a heated half-hour-long discussion regarding the future location of the district’s offices.
The district’s current lease of office space at the Matthew Brooke Building, Birdsboro, expires June 30.
The board previously approved relocating to the former Amity Primary Center (APC), Douglassville, which is already occurring under the direction of Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Kenneth Smith.
Returning board members said at the board’s Reorganization Meeting Dec. 2 that there is nothing further to discuss or vote upon.
They said in November that retrofitting the High School, Birdsboro, to accommodate the offices would cost approximately $100,000.
In contrast, there are no costs to relocate to APC.
“I want a cost comparison between moving offices to APC or to the High School,” said Martino throughout the discussion, adding later that he wanted the topic included on the board’s Dec. 16 voting agenda.
“And, I want [new board member Suzanne] Dungan to investigate the leasing/selling of APC.”
Former board president Andrew Basile replied that board members don’t do things individually, but as a group.
He said investigating the marketability of APC, with a recent $9 million of energy-efficient renovations, should be the job of the board’s Facilities Committee.
“We should ask for a request for proposal from various brokers and then the issue should be presented to the public,” said Basile. “We don’t operate individually, we operate as a group.”
The board approved on Oct. 14 a five-year lease of one-third of APC’s 67,808 square feet to River Rock Academy & Day Treatment Center, based in Hellam, PA, effective Jan. 1.
River Rock would begin operating in August 2014.
The lease agreement is for 28,000 square feet, at $9 per square foot, payment of 41 percent of APC’s annual utility costs ($38,000 to $40,000), as well as three free tuitions for Daniel Boone School District students, plus one additional free tuition for every eight students.
It also includes free 2013-14 tuition for two of the district’s seven students that are currently transported to the River Rock Academy Sinking Spring site, for savings of $200,000.
Basile and Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto said Oct. 14 that the estimated cost avoidance would range from $168,000 with three free tuitions, to a maximum of $220,000 with five free tuitions.
Basile said the district would continue to market the building for lease or sale and would be prepared to utilize the lease’s six-month early termination clause upon a lease or purchase offer of the entire building.
“Okay, but months have passed and you still don’t have an actual market value of the building,” said Martino.
“You spent $9 million [in renovations] on a building we don’t need, and you’re getting $160,000 to $200,000 each year in savings.”
Board member Tamara Twardowski said the district would never receive the $9 million renovation cost.
“If we sell it for $2 to $3 million, we will still have the debt service,” said Twardowski. “I‘m okay with getting [reviewing] the cost estimates, but not to jeopardize the move.”
Otto voiced his concerns about altering the current relocation plans.
“The administration thought we were moving to APC, and if that changes -- people will be very confused,” said Otto.
Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torchia said six months is not sufficient time for Smith to “switch gears,” adding that the district would need to extend the current lease.
Board member Robert D. McLaughlin said a lease extension could cost the district $85,000.
“The board determined that the cost at APC was zero, but to move to the High School would cost “x” amount, and if the goal is to balance a budget -- why the push to the High School?” said Basile.
Martino said the district needs to get more money from APC, after paying $9 million to renovate.
“Since we’re looking at the budget and considering cutting programs, I’d rather see the money go into program than putting the money to moving to the High School,” said Basile.
“I just want the numbers -- and I want it on the next agenda -- to vote,” said Martino, arguing that there was no formal vote by the board to move to APC. “Decisions that have not taken place -- can be changed,”
McLaughlin replied to Martino that the voting is done.
“And I’m saying I want it reopened,” said Martino.
New board member David Rathgeb, representing Amity Township, said the district should move forward with the move to APC.
“By the time we get the numbers on APC versus the High School, it will be too late to change,” said Rathgeb.
Martino relented, saying, “Well we’re not voting, but is that the consensus?”
Otto said he would provide Martino with the relocation figures.
“There are savings, no spending, and value added,” said McLaughlin, “this is so clearly written out.”
“As a member of the committee that made the decision, it’s upsetting that this is being brought up again,” said previous board member Michael Wolfe. “It was discussed in public for months. There are costs involved to transform it into usable [office] space, and members of the public entering the High School would be interacting with the students. You can’t block off the offices. We would have to hire another security officer, upgrade the audio system. As a board member, you should be asking these questions, but Ken Smith asked for a decision two months ago, and he has a small group that will do the work. There are no additional costs. At this juncture, please don’t reverse that -- it would be very detrimental and disruptive to Kenny.”
“I was surprised that my name was brought up regarding APC,” said Dungan, “I am a residential realtor. I haven’t done much commercial, but what’s left over at APC should be marketed.”