Northampton Press

Friday, February 28, 2020

Middle School plan awaits PDE approval ASD board approves Act 34 hearing results

Thursday, October 4, 2012 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) requirements for the Northampton Area Middle School project have been met and the paperwork is off to Harrisburg to await approval.

Two key elements of the $80-million project were backed by the Northampton Area School Board by an 8-0 vote, with one board member absent, at the Sept. 24 meeting.

The so-called PlanCon Part D, which involves the project accounting based on estimated projections, and PlanCon Part E, which has to do with the project design development, received approvals, as recommended by the NASD administration.

Jay Clough of MKSD, principal middle school project architects, told the school board and administration officials at the meeting that they had fulfilled their responsibility and that review and approval now rests with the PDE.

In a related vote, school directors voted 8-0 to authorize the administration to work with PFM, financial consultant to the district, to issue General Obligation Bonds, Series 2013, to refund the General Obligation Bonds, Series 2003, for a net minimum 2 percent target savings.

By the same vote under the finances portion of the agenda, school directors authorized the administration to work with PFM for the issuance of General Obligation Bonds Series 2012 in the amount of about $5 million to fund a portion of the middle school project.

The votes follow the mandated Act 34 hearing, held Aug. 16, to detail the middle school project and receive comments from district residents. The mandatory minimum 30-day waiting period for additional written comments from residents, taxpayers and NASD employees concluded Sept. 21.

The substance of PlanCon D includes the 43-page Act 34 booklet and comments.

The next step is PlanCon F, which authorizes requests for proposals, or the submitting of bids, for the middle school project.

"Our merry Christmas present will be PlanCon F," said Clough.

The next step will involve the awarding of contracts, or bids, known as PlanCon G. The awarding of bids is expected to occur sometime after the first of the new year.

Groundbreaking for the new middle school could take place as soon as March 2013.

The Act 34 booklet was approved by a 7-0 vote at the July 23 school board meeting.

It sets a maximum middle school construction cost of $53,346,750 and a maximum project cost of $80,720,752.

Plans for the new 270,000-square-foot, three-floor middle school call for 66 classrooms for grades six through eight to accommodate 1,500 students.

The project, in addition to including demolition of the middle school after the middle school is built and open for the 2015-16 school year, includes a new gymnasium and cafeteria, construction of a new athletic field on the site of the old middle school, demolition of the field house, construction of a new field house, improvements to campus streets and parking lots, demolition of the former vo-tech school, construction of a new parking lot and the possible construction of a new swimming pool and improvements to the Al Erdosy Memorial Stadium track and football field.

NASD is in line to receive $10.5 million in PDE reimbursements for the middle school project, according to Clough and administration officials.

The reimbursement is expected to be paid during the 25-year life of the bonds being issued for the project.

NASD got in under the wire for PDE reimbursement. After July 1, commonwealth reimbursement for public school construction is in doubt, according to Clough.