Proposed studies cause friction among Moon Area board members
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A demographic study including pupil enrollment projections and an elementary school facilities study being ordered by directors at Moon Area was cause for some friction between members Monday evening.
The two items were late additions to the agenda and did not show up on the agenda published prior to the meeting on the district's website and social media outlets.
As of Tuesday, the published agenda still had not been updated to reflect the changes.
The demographic study is being performed by Stewman Demographics and is expected to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to Alan Bennett, director of fiscal and school services.
The facilities study by Stantec Architecture and Engineering will include two public presentations and cost about $35,000, he said.
Director Jerry Testa had tried to table both of the studies until next month in the interest of notifying the public of the proposals, but his motions got no further and discussion was cut off each time by a motion being made to vote on the topics.
"A two-week delay to notify the public is not a delay," Mr. Testa said.
"We've had demographics done in the past ... and here we are cavalierly spending $12,000 to $15,000."
Additionally, Moon resident Basel Masry asked the board to table the decisions so the public could be informed prior to a vote.
Mr. Testa voted against both proposals, while Ron Steele abstained from voting on the elementary facilities study because his wife works for a company owned by Stantec's health care division.
President Sandra McCurdy said hiring the firms "was completely in the purview of the board" and that "no decisions are being made."
The community will have full participation in these discussions, she said.
The plan to evaluate the district has been public knowledge, according to Director Laura Schisler, who also said demographics show an increase in birth rates in the area and that maybe another school would have to be built.
"I'd rather use this money to bring back some employees," Mr. Testa said.
"We've done enough studies in the past five years that we could build another wing on this building.
"I'd bet any money that the recommendations will say to close a building."
The district has about 23 empty classrooms.
For 10 years, the district has known about the deteriorating conditions at Allard and Hyde elementaries, said Director Jeffrey Bussard, who added that Brooks Elementary also is in need of work.
"I don't see any reason why we should wait [to vote]," he said.
Also Monday, the board authorized the solicitation for bids to replace boilers for the radiant heat system at Brooks, which is said to be 10 years past its expected use. Directors Ron Steele, Michael Olszewski and Dennis Harbaugh voted against the bid authorization.
This bidding process will cost about $1,000, said Mr. Bennett, who expects the boilers to cost about $250,000 to replace.
Conversation among directors became increasingly heated toward the end of the meeting, resulting in adjournment without board members making comments to the public.
Mr. Testa's request to be allowed to speak later in the board comments portion of the meeting was denied. When he asked Mrs. McCurdy why she always asked him to speak first after announcing at the beginning of the year she would alternate who went first, she told him, "I changed my mind."
"There were some fireworks here tonight that I haven't seen in at least 21/2 years," said Mr. Masry, who advised the board to "remain professional and keep your composure."
First Published November 21, 2012 5:54 am