New Castle News

November 15, 2012

New Castle OKs Lockley project

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — After a few years of planning and disagreements, the New Castle Area school board members have finally agreed.

The district will commence with a school consolidation project for its elementary schools.

The board unanimously approved the contracts last night for the building of the Lockley Early Learning Center, with construction costs totaling $19,023,733.

The project, to consolidate Thaddeus Stevens, John F. Kennedy, West Side School and Lockley elementary schools under one roof and renovate the Croton Avenue building, will proceed pending the final approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Board member Barbara Razzano commented that, at the beginning, she had advocated for the board to seek other less expensive options, but “I can’t justify paying penalties and having nothing to show for it to our taxpayers.”

She indicated that she was voting in favor of the project because of a potential $9 million loss to the district if the project does not proceed.

Altogether, according to the estimates by Eckles Architecture, the option chosen by the board will include other associated non-construction costs estimated at $3,689,739, which could bring the project’s total price tag to $22,713,472. However, both the architect and construction manager have promised they will look for ways to cut costs throughout the project.

The contracts are awarded as follows:

•General construction, Rien Construction Co. of Brookfield Ohio, $12,826,000.

•Heating and air conditioning, Lugalia Mechanical of Pittsburgh, $2,573,000.

•Plumbing construction, Shipley Plumbing of Cranberry Township, $1,138,000.

•Electrical, Blackhawk-Neff of New Castle, $1,233,900.

•Technology communications, Westmoreland Electric of Tarrs, Pa., $674,000.

•Food service, Commercial Appliance of Grove City, $219,275.

•Lanscaping, Executive Landscaping of Vienna, Ohio, $359,558.

Dr. Joe Berkely, whose wife, Marilyn, sits on the board, addressed the board, commenting, “Studies have shown that the more money we throw at education, the less we get for it.

“Thirty years from now when the school is paid off, the majority of people in this room won’t be paying taxes. We won’t be here. It’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money,” he said.

District business manager Joe Ambrosini explained after the meeting that while there has been criticism about the debt service increasing by about $750,000 per year, he anticipates the district will save close to $1.2 million a year by consolidating.

Several other line items in the budget also will be reduced by reducing staff, mostly through attrition, and saving on utilities, transportation, repairs and maintenance, insurance, copiers, library supplies, refuse collection, telephones, janitorial services, Internet lines, alarms and extermination fees.

A presentation he made to the board in April 2011, showed that with the consolidation, a proposed 22.5 positions could be eliminated, mostly through attrition, at a savings of $796,000, with board approval. The additional savings in operating costs would total about $396,025.

(Email: dwachter