At a meeting held Monday, Sept. 15, Hellertown Borough Council members unanimously approved funding for appraisal proposals for the demolition of a portion of, or all of, the former Reinhard School. Funds will also help pay for an assessment of asbestos remediation for the building.The vote to approve funds for the studies, which will be undertaken by borough engineering consultants Barry Isett and Associates, was approved 6-0. Council member Jane Balum was absent.

The Reinhard School, which has been vacant for more than two years, is located at Northampton Street and Magnolia Road in Hellertown.

The original school building dates to 1910; an addition, which includes a gymnasium, was added in the 1950s, and is known to contain asbestos which would need to be remediated if the building were to be razed.

Barry Isett and Associates engineers previously recommended to council members that they authorize an asbestos evaluation for the entire building, since the older part of Reinhard has been suggested for adaptive civic reuse.

The additional asbestos observation and checks to be performed in the 1910 building are expected to cost approximately $1,100, Borough Manager Charlie Luthar said in a phone interview following the meeting.

Since the building, once renovated, could be leased to civic organizations and community groups, "we ought to make sure that (it is) safe," he added.

Another portion of the study will involve assessing the removal of two underground oil storage tanks underneath the older portion of Reinhard, Luthar said.

"There are two underground oil tanks that supply the heating system for the newer building," but there are also two 250 gallon tanks underneath the older part of the building, he explained.

The effect of the vote, he added, is essentially to keep all options for Reinhard's future on the table.

In the past year, the school has been suggested as a possible future home to a new post office in Hellertown.

Debated extensively by Borough Council members, the plan to relocate the current post office, located on W. Water Street, is now on hold, the United States Postal Service recently informed borough officials in a letter.

The construction of new post office branches throughout the country is under review because of the nation's current economic woes and the related crises in the financial markets, the letter, which was read by council president Gail Nolf at an August Borough Council meeting, explained.

Any work related to asbestos and oil tank removal and/or demolition to be performed at Reinhard is not expected to occur until next spring at the earliest, Luthar said.

Josh Popichak is the editor of The Saucon News. He can be contacted via e-mail at jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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