Tube City Almanac

October 03, 2011

Residents Question MASD Building Projects

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

The financial impact of the McKeesport Area School District's multi-phase elementary school construction project has residents increasingly concerned about the district's ability --- and the taxpayers' ability --- to afford the $84 million estimated total cost.

At the school board's regular meeting on Wednesday night, residents asked the district not to completely abort the plan for the new elementary-intermediate school, but rather to delay it while the district analyzes the financial feasibility of the project, especially considering the added created by the new Francis McClure and Cornell schools.

The projects encompass the expansion of Francis McClure Intermediate, a new facility at the former site of Cornell Intermediate and a new elementary-intermediate school proposed for part of the former Buck estate (owned by Robert DeTorre) that the district is trying to acquire by eminent domain.

According to board member Thomas Maglicco, during a recent finance committee meeting, accounting firm Janney Montgomery Scott projected a current estimated cost for all three projects at $84 million, with a millage increase of 4 mills.

. . .

Several McKeesport and White Oak residents spoke up at the meeting about the building projects, including Terri Kisan, a candidate for school board in the upcoming election this November. She said that people have shared with her numerous concerns about the effects of a potential millage increase on those with fixed incomes in the community.

"Can we afford moving into the third project if we haven't really started the second?" she asked the board.

Kisan was one of several proponents for keeping George Washington Elementary operating, citing an "excellent turnout" from the community at the school during a recent meet-the-teacher event and ice cream social as an example of the influence that the building continues to have on the community.

. . .

"In my opinion, George Washington looks better to me every day," she said. "I'm just trying to hope that we can somehow finish some of these bigger projects and try to use that school just a little bit longer."

Keith Murphy of the McKeesport Political American African Committee also called for fiscal prudence considering the district's elderly and unemployed populations.

"This is a human condition here in McKeesport that this board is responsible for," he said. "If we want to put these people in bad situations, that's on your back.

"I endorse wholeheartedly the fact that George Washington is still a workable school, still able to facilitate what it needs to do to educate our children," Murphy added. "We need to put the other projects on the backburner."

. . .

Murphy also urged the board to adopt measures to ensure that any construction in the district provides opportunities for African American, minority and female workers --- especially local workers.

"I'm in 100 percent agreement with you that the people in this community need to work," School Director Mark Holtzman told Murphy. "I would like to see the people from the Mon Valley get involved."

. . .

MASD swim coach Scott Smith asked the board about a jump in cost from $21.8 million to $29.3 million for the Cornell project and questioned how the board planned to mitigate the overage.

According to business manager David Seropian and solicitor Gary Matta, the $21.8 million cost was an estimate made three years ago by the district's previous architect, L. R. Kimball. The project's current architect, J.C. Pierce, provided the current $29.3 million estimate.

"Other professionals had advised this board at some point that they believed the building could be built for that amount of money," Matta said. "They explained how much square footage was going to be in that facility. When the current professionals took that idea and developed it into a real building, apparently it couldn't be done for $21 million."

The board took no action on any motions concerning the proposed elementary-intermediate school project during last Wednesday's meeting.

You should type something in the 'comment'-field. Be sure to click on 'Post Comment' to store it permanently.

Your Comments are Welcome!

- April 16, 2014

One or more comments are waiting for approval by an editor.

To comment on any story at Tube City Almanac, email, send a tweet to, visit our Facebook page, or write to Tube City Almanac, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport, PA 15134.