by Kristin Smith, Phoenix Staff Writer
July 18, 2002
SCHUYLKILL – Planning commission members decided to form a committee to decide whether demolition or renovation is the best option for the Schuylkill Elementary School.
The Phoenixville Area School District has developed a concept plan that calls for the demolition of both buildings of the elementary school in order to build a single three-story school that would increase the student capacity by 120 percent. The project is estimated by the school board to last three years and cost approximately $20 million dollars.
Opposition from local preservationists, who wish to save the approximately 70-year old lower building, has prompted the planning commission to seriously consider the issue.
"I see the merits of a new school, but I also see a community viewpoint of preserving at least part of the school," said Supervisor Lee Ledbetter, who attended the meeting. "I know a lot of you have been in the community longer than I have. Is it feasible from an engineering perspective, forget the cost, to save some parts of the school and if so, what parts?"
Noting that the Charlestown Elementary School was built approximately the same time, planning commission member Dr. John Lukacs, suggested investigating the steps that were taken to renovate the building.
"This is not binding to us, but I think we should see what Charlestown’s doing," said Lukacs. "They (the Phoenixville Area School District) tell us it’s cheaper to tear it down and build a new building. Charlestown’s renovating, we should have some information on that. It would not be binding to us."
Agreeing, Chairman James Reading directed Mary Bird, township secretary, to write for more information on the Charlestown Elementary School renovation.
"We should at least have a committee to go over there," said member Augustus Bodiva. "I’ve heard some horror stories about mold and other environmental problems."
After little prompting by other members, Bodiva agreed to chair the committee.
"It behooves us to do this before we try to make a decision without even seeing it." added Bodiva.
Reading also agreed to be on the committee.
In other news: The planning commission may soon be expanding to six members, citing the difficulty of sometimes reaching a quorum (majority). The commission currently has five members. Reading made a motion to expand to six members per the 1979 ordinance that allows the commission to go up to six people.
"My recollection is that the board of supervisors expanded the commission to six people, but the member was an ex-officio member of the board," said Lukacs. "I’ve been on the planning commission a long time and I only remember one time in 30 years we didn’t have a quorum. I’m indifferent to it, but I really don’t see a reason for it."
Disagreeing, Reading noted that the last few years, before he got to the meetings, he was not sure if the commission would reach a quorum or not.
The motion was seconded by Daniel Baer and passed with Bodiva abstaining.
The next planning commission meeting will be Wednesday, September 18 at 8:00 p.m. in the township building.
Kristin Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org