Peters schools reject seismic testing

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Thanks, but no thanks.

That was the message Monday when Peters Township school board voted down a request to conduct seismic testing on district-owned properties surrounding the high school and Pleasant Valley Elementary School for a payment of $500.

"There's no benefit to the school district," said board member Rebecca Bowman, who pointed out that testing, proposed by McDonald Land Services on behalf of Seitel Data Ltd., would be speculative and could place students in danger. 

The testing would provide a 3-D map of rock formations deep below the surface, enabling drilling companies to pinpoint oil and gas deposits, such as those in the Marcellus Shale. The mapping companies sell data they gather to drilling companies.

Although no drilling is yet taking place in Peters, seismic testing has been done on behalf of EQT and Range Resources, which are drilling near township borders.  

Board members voted 8-0 against the proposal. Board member Lynn Erenberg was absent.

In related business, board members decided to table a decision on pursuing an energy-savings contract while they decide whether to complete the upgrades on their own.

Board member Ron Dunleavy said previous energy audits pinpointed facility upgrades to save on energy costs and he wondered why the district was discussing the purchase of information it already had obtained.

At issue is whether the district will hire a contractor to organize and oversee upgrades or have those services provided by employees. The district currently spends about $1 million per year in energy costs, board member William Merrell said.

Mr. Dunleavy also pointed out that the district is considering a tax hike this year and could save money doing the work itself.

Members voted 5-3 to table the decision, with Mr. Merrell, Ms. Bowman and Jamison Hardy dissenting.

Also Monday, Milt Barney, director of the high school marching band, ask the board for permission to take band members on a cruise to the Bahamas next year.

Although band members have performed at Disney World and in Virginia Beach, offers by tour companies to perform on cruises are more cost-effective, Mr. Barney said.

The performances are judged by a panel of collegiate band leaders, who offer feedback to improve performances. The band also could perform for other travelers on the cruise, which leaves from Port Canaveral, Fla.

Mr. Barney hopes to take about 200 students with him on the Friday-Monday cruise in April 2015 and said he expects students to miss two days of school, less than previous trips.

In an informal survey of families, Mr. Barney said about 93 percent favored the trip, which would involve less fundraising than other options.

"The advantage is we will save a lot of time and it's cheaper than busing students to Orlando," he said.

Board members asked Mr. Barney about the need for passports, which he said weren't necessary according to tour companies. 

Mr. Barney said plenty of chaperones would go on the trip, including Peters police Officer Jim Stevick, who provides in-school security as part of an agreement between the township and the district.

The board is expected to make a decision on the request soon.


Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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