Tube City Almanac

November 01, 2011

Amidst Protests, School Board Moving Forward With Buildings

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Residents continue to fill meetings of the McKeesport Area School Board for news about --- and some to protest --- the three-school construction project that has dominated the agenda.

People are not only concerned about the financial impact on the district but also about the personal impact on Robert DeTorre, who owns the 37-acre former Buck estate, part of which the district is pursuing by eminent domain as grounds for a new McKeesport elementary/intermediate school.

At last Wednesday's meeting, DeTorre announced that he filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, claiming that the district violated the PlanCon Part C application process by not disclosing available district-owned sites for the new school --- namely the 68 acres of property adjacent to and including Francis McClure Intermediate School.

His complaint argues that this admission would cause the district to lose the state's financial support for its purchase of 26 acres of his property.

 . . .

White Oak Mayor Ina Jean Marton asked board members to put themselves in DeTorre's shoes and consider his feelings about having his property taken away from him.

"I don't believe that we, the United States of America, the land of the free, have the right to come in and take anybody's property," Marton said.

"I know each and every one of you has a good heart, but think about what you are doing to him," she said.

Marton also suggested that the board consider razing White Oak School and rebuilding on that site instead.

 . . .

At Wednesday's meeting, the board officially acknowledged the state had received the district's PlanCon Part C paperwork. PlanCon --- short for Planning and Construction Workbook --- is a group of filings that Pennsylvania school districts use to request state reimbursement of major construction projects, with Part C dealing specifically with land acquisition.

The school board has proceeded with the eminent domain process on the DeTorre property. DeTorre said he received his condemnation letter on Oct. 25 and must now appear in court within a month.

DeTorre also told the board that he filed a right-to-know request for the official accounting of the written comments the board has received following the Act 34 hearing on Sept. 21 during which the third proposed school was discussed, as suggested by board counsel at last week's open agenda meeting.

"This information is important for me in my defense ... You're holding it back from the public and me," said DeTorre, claiming that he personally knows of 226 letters.

. . .

School director Thomas Maglicco repeated his concerns about the school district's ability to afford the bond financing for the three projects and his opposition to building the third school. He was the sole vote against the board's motion to authorize the administration to work with the district's investment banker, Janney Montgomery Scott, and bond counsel, Dinsmore and Shohl, LLP, to issue the general obligation bonds.

Alisha Phillips, representative for Janney Montgomery Scott, presented the board with a summary of the proposed financing of the estimated $84 million, three-building project that reflects the annual payments the district would have to make.

Phillips explained that the total financing for the three projects blends the district's existing debt service (a $10 million note taken out in 2010) with the new borrowing and phases it through a three-year period in construction.

. . .

Maglicco questioned the breakdown in Phillips' summary, remarking that "these numbers look a little higher than the last time we looked."  At last week's open agenda meeting he estimated a $3.1 million annual payment beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Phillips said that the financing still puts the total project financing cost between three and four mills.

However, with the potential net reimbursements --- from the state through the PlanCon processs --- the cost to do this financing would be roughly $1.067 million which equates to 1.46 mills, according to Phillips.

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Feedback on “Amidst Protests, School Board Moving Forward With Buildings”

Obviously, certain people are intent on continuing their agenda…perhaps they should start working WITH people instead of against them, including local governments. The school district is just like Port Authority…spend and spend to get some publicity, then complain you have no money when the project is done.
Adam - November 01, 2011

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