Second campus access planned in Montour

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The Montour School District plans to build a second driveway to its Clever Road campus in Robinson to serve the high school, the athletic center and a planned $55 million elementary school.

School board members last Thursday voted to move forward with a plan to convert an existing emergency route into a paved, lighted, two-lane road.

The roughly $800,000 upgrade is needed to comply with Robinson fire regulations, superintendent Donald Boyer said.

Adding the second driveway will qualify Montour High School for a permanent occupancy permit and allow construction of a 155,000-square-foot elementary school on the campus, Mr. Boyer said.

"If we're going to put another building on this site of any size, we're going to have to comply with [the township's fire code] ordinance," he said.

Temporary occupancy permits that Robinson code officials issued to the high school after a $52.8 million renovation project in 2011 will expire at the end of the current school year.

"Ultimately, that road has to be fixed to solve that occupancy permit problem," school district attorney Donald Palmer said.

The 110-acre high school campus also includes the Montour Athletic Center, which is nearing the end of a $15 million renovation, and the future site of a new elementary school.

The asphalt road initially could accommodate elementary school construction vehicles and eventually could carry school buses and other traffic, Mr. Boyer said.

School board members voted 7-1, with one member absent, to authorize Architectural Innovations LLC of Ross to prepare a design and bid specifications for the driveway construction.

Member Duane Faith voted "no" because the district hadn't finalized a contract with Architectural Innovations to design the elementary school, despite about seven months of negotiations. "We've got drawings being generated, and we don't have a contract in place," Mr. Faith said.

The driveway design cost was not established. Mr. Palmer said the architect will bill the district for the work.

The board had voted in August to allow the architect to proceed with design of the elementary facility, subject to approval of the school attorney.

The two-story elementary building will replace Robinson's Burkett and Forest Grove schools and accommodate kindergarten through fourth grade, plus a new half-day preschool program. Opening is planned for fall 2015.

Along with the new school, Montour must build a second road to the campus, according to the 2009 version of the International Fire Code that Robinson commissioners adopted in December. (2012)

The rule adoption followed months of dispute between the township and school district over the existing emergency access route to the high school.

In June, the township's code agency, Plans Examiners Inc., had revoked Montour High School's temporary occupancy permits following extensive building renovations, saying the fire code required the district to upgrade the secondary route.

But the township later reinstated and extended the permits because it turned out that officials never had adopted the fire code and therefore could not legally enforce it.

Due to the township commissioners' recent adoption vote, the school district's new elementary school must conform to the fire code's driveway rules.

Mr. Boyer said last week that leveling the grade of the existing emergency route, which had been designed as an emergency walking path, would cost about $500,000, and installing a nicer, more usable road would cost about $300,000 more.

"Do you want to spend a half million dollars on a dirt path, or do you want to spend eight hundred-some-thousand and get a two-lane road with lights? That's basically where we are," Mr. Boyer said. Board members generally agreed that the paved road was necessary and a good idea.

"For that kind of money, you'd be better off building the road," President Ron Smith said.

"We need the road no matter what," board member Cynthia Morrow said.

education - neigh_west

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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