Tube City Almanac

November 29, 2011

Cornell Project Delayed Pending State Approval

Category: News || By Jennifer Sopko

View Cornell Intermediate School in a larger map

The vacant land where Cornell Intermediate School formerly stood is still quietly waiting for trucks, bulldozers and construction workers to clear the way for a new, modern school building.

The project --- the second part of McKeesport Area School District's three-school development --- has been delayed while the district continues to wait for permit approval from the Allegheny County Conservation District and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In July, after receiving bids from four construction companies, the board awarded the $29.25 million contract to the lowest bidder, Gurtner Construction Co. of Pittsburgh's West End. District officials said they began filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate state and county organizations once they assumed control of the property back in May.  

During last week's school board meeting, construction manager Gerald Tedesco reported that the Cornell project had been moving forward as originally planned.  

. . .

However, after seven months, the district is still waiting for approval of the erosion and sedimentation plan from the DEP, without which they cannot break ground and begin laying the foundation for the new school.

The permit has not yet been approved, most likely due to the pressing number of Marcellus shale gas drilling applications and inquiries that are overwhelming the DEP, said Ryan Pierce, president and CEO of architectural and engineering firm JC Pierce of Bellevue.

"This is a problem that's occurring on all kinds of projects, not just the ones with the school districts," Pierce said. 

"We're as frustrated as you guys," he told the board. "I'd love to see a building out there as much as anybody. We're doing all we can. Again, I wish there was more we could do, but it's a bureaucracy."

. . .

Another issue is an abandoned house adjacent to the Cornell site that will need to be razed for a right-of-way to continue a sewer line during an early stage of the school's construction.  

According to Tedesco, after the construction contract was awarded, the district learned that the city did not have the money to demolish the house. The district will need to continue discussions with the city regarding the house.

School Director Mark Holtzman asked if the district performed all of its due diligence on the Cornell project, submitting the paperwork in timely fashion. Pierce and Tedesco said they started the process as soon as it was feasible to do so.

In the meantime, Tedesco said he directed the contractor to begin excavating a less than one-acre area around Bailey Avenue for temporary facilities and trailers.

. . .

The Cornell project is following about the same time frame as the expansion of Francis McClure Intermediate. According to Pierce, that project's permit also took about six or seven months to be approved.

While Tedesco said that the project's delays with both the erosion and sedimentation plan permit and demolition agreement with the city would not put the district in the hole, he admitted that, "We need to remedy the situation."

"The bottom line is then, we have followed every proper procedure that we need to do as a district, meaning the architect, project manager, engineer, and we are being held up by someone else, not by our own," Holtzman said.

Feedback on “Cornell Project Delayed Pending State Approval”

Personal information

Due to abuse by a handful of people, we will no longer accept anonymous comments. You may request to use a pen name or to have your real name withheld, but you may not comment anonymously, and you must give us a verifiable email address and/or phone number.

Remember your information?

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.

Terms of Service: Tube City Community Media Inc. encourages discussion and debate, and welcomes dissenting opinions. However, the corporation cannot and will not vouch for the accuracy of comments.

Opinions expressed in the comments are those of the posters, and do not reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its directors or affiliates.

Under 47 U.S.C. 230, the corporation is not legally responsible for opinions expressed in the comments. However: We reserve the right to delete comments for any or no reason, including comments that are libelous, defamatory, infringing, inappropriate or offensive. We also reserve the right to ban individuals with or without warning.

Posting a comment at gives the corporation a perpetual, free license to reprint or republish that comment.

Posting a comment at or any related site operated by Tube City Community Media Inc. implies acceptance of these terms.