Peters Township School District plans to borrow $20 million toward projects involving its current and new high schools.
As determined at an Oct. 3 meeting of the school board’s finance committee, $17 million of that amount is earmarked for the conversion of the current high school to a middle school, and the remainder toward the building under construction on the former Rolling Hills Country Club property.
During that meeting, the board also decided to scrap the idea of moving district administrative offices to the future middle school as part of the conversion project.
Four days later on Monday night, the board met for a buildings and grounds committee meeting that was preceded by a visit to the high school for a firsthand look at some of the items under consideration for the transformation.
Some major facets include turning the natatorium space into middle school administration offices and making improvements to the building’s architectural finishes, roofing and windows, Americans With Disabilities Act and code compliance, and electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems.
After further discussion about the necessity for some of the items, the school board arrived at an estimated cost of $13.25 million for work that would be included in a base bid for facility improvements.
“However, there are three or four items that we’re taking a look at that potentially could save another half a million,” Mike Arnold for Reynolds Construction LLC, said. Reynolds is the project’s construction manager and developed the cost estimates.
Work involving the swimming pool area and other facets of a “major building/programs modifications and additions” component to the overall project is estimated at another $3.456 million.
Mark Duane, principal with project architect Hayes Design Group, described what that amount would entail.
“There are some programming improvements throughout the building, but the majority of the scope of the work was configuring the middle school administration and a secure vestibule out toward the front of the building, using the natatorium space that will be abandoned,” he said during the buildings and grounds committee meeting.
“We feel for it to work at its best function would be to add a vestibule outside the existing doors, and then to the left of it would be the receptionist area and waiting area. That would become the secure vestibule that is actually an addition,” Duane continued. “The rest of the function of the middle school administration spaces could be within the natatorium area.”
The “programming improvements” mostly address spaces to be modified to suit the needs of a middle school better. The school board will be provided with a cost breakdown for each item on a list of 17, including the natatorium conversion.
“This is a very, very, very preliminary plan,” Duane said.
Regarding facility improvements, board member Rolf Briegel advocated installing air conditioning for the gymnasium, estimated at $672,300.
“I’ve been in there enough times when that gym is miserable,” he said.
Adam Sikorski, middle school principal, said the gymnasium represents the only are in which the entire study body would be able to congregate.
“To have everybody in that space would be a luxury that we don’t have now at our current middle school,” he explained. “So we would be utilizing it in that capacity.”
The board decided to include item as an alternate to the base bid that could be added to the project if the budget allows. Two other alternates address roofing improvements.
Washington officials want to redirect a tributary stream that runs behind the American Legion to help mitigate flooding, erosion and potential infrastructure issues.
Carrol Ehrhart, a project manager with the engineering company Skelly and Loy, presented the project to City Council Monday. She said the project will comply with requirements the city needs to meet with its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit as well as improve the stream banks, reduce sediment, increase flood storage and protect a sanitary sewer line that runs under the stream.
“The stream will be moved closer to the Legion and their parking lot,” said Lynn Galluze, the city’s computer systems coordinator. “It will have better banks and will help with the erosion.”
One of the main reasons for redirecting the stream, Galluze said, is the fact that there’s a sanitary sewer line that runs through the middle and along the creek bed. Ehrhart said there’s been so much erosion in that stream that the pipe is exposed, and the city is concerned that it could be damaged or compromised if they don’t move the stream, which is a tributary to Catfish Creek.
“You can actually see the sanitary sewer pipe because of the amount of erosion,” Ehrhart said. “If it gets hit by debris, it’s very vulnerable to damage. We have a dual purpose here, because we’re protecting our infrastructure.”
Galluze said part of the project will include excavating a floodplain along the stream that will help reduce flooding downstream.
“Further down the creek there’s an area that always gets flooded, so in doing this it helps the flooding overall, so the water doesn’t end up in the middle of town,” she said. “Everything that we’re doing helps.”
As part of the city’s MS4 permit, they are required to reduce pollution. Ehrhart said that sediment is “the best metric” for reducing pollution and that “stream restoration” is the most efficient way to reduce sediment.
“The intensity of our storms becoming more severe is causing our stream banks to collapse and that creates the sediment,” she said.
The engineering and design of the project is being funded through a $145,000 grant the city received through the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener program. Galluze said the city will bid out the construction part of the project and hopefully secure more grants for that portion of the project. The estimated cost of the total project is about $1.3 million.
On Oct. 17, Todd Moses, senior geomorphologist with Skelly and Loy, will present the project to members of the American Legion and answer any questions they may have, Ehrhart said.
“It’s probably going to change the way they use their land a little bit,” Ehrhart said of the Legion’s location at168 Park Ave. “Instead of having that large expansive area that they have to mow and maintain, the stream will move a little closer to them.”
A Washington resident has started a new company to bring visitors and programming to Washington Park.
Pam Kilgore, who’s lived in the city for 12 years, started the new WashPa Outdoors LLC, as a citizens advocacy group for the park.
“The park is over 270 acres,” she said. “That’s a large space of land and only part of it is ball parks. There are wooded trails and beautiful scenery.”
Kilgore, who works for Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, considers herself a naturalist – someone who studies the natural world, advocates for it and educates others about it. She said that as a Washington resident and raising her two children here, she wants to “build a strong community,” and that the park is a good place to do that.
“I think people are always looking for accessible opportunities to spend time with their families outside,” she said. “This is kind of a diamond in the rough. It’s a resource that a lot of folks haven’t really discovered. If they have an event to go to that is celebrating those spaces they’ll be more prone to visit the park.”
So far, Kilgore has brought yoga classes to the park, trail cleanup days, group trail runs, nature hikes and pond studies. She also hosts a “nature with preschoolers” event for parents or guardians to bring preschool-aged children to learn about the park with stories and crafts.
She wants to also organize art classes in the park, book clubs, some camp out nights with a bonfire and music, maybe even a “hootenanny.”
“I’m trying to find out what people are interested in doing in the park, but I’d love to have a monthly music thing for people to play music and bring food,” she said. “It would just be a couple hours on a weekend evening when people can hang out around a fire and listen to music.”
Kilgore hopes to work with Washington & Jefferson College students on creating an app to help folks identify birds in the park. She said she wants to get a few pairs of binoculars for bird watchers to be able to check out for the day. She also wants to plan for a family fun run, fall festivals with haunted night hikes – all things that showcase the natural areas of the park while bringing people together outdoors.
“I don’t think people use the trails very much,” she said. “It’s an underutilized, valuable resource and a real local gem. I would love to do a night hike in the winter, and I’ve had some interest in cross country skiing tours, if we get enough snow this year.”
As part of her park programming, there will also be a Haunted Village and Hayride from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, for which Kilgore partnered with Drew Ross Manko, manager of The Ross Farm in North Bethlehem Township, and with the Washington County Historical Society.
She partnered with both in the past, as the Historical Society owns about 21 acres in the park, according to Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Historical Society, who has no relation to Pam Kilgore despite the same surname.
Clay called it “the perfect partnership,” that he believes “will benefit the community.” He said Pam’s programming will bring people to their sites who possibly never visited them or wouldn’t have otherwise. Their Frontier History Center and fort, Clay said is used “a few times a year for major events,” like the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
“Why not make it more accessible to the community,” Clay said. “Pam needed space, and we had it. We want it to be a community area. I want it to be used every weekend if it can be.”
For more information about park programs, contact Pam Kilgore at email@example.com or visit her WashPa Outdoors Facebook page.