Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"The Time To Act Is NOW" on High School Renovation

Lebo resident Rob Papke, known to many in the community for his support of environmental issues (he's a guardian angel to Lebo's beloved trees!), weighs in on the high school renovation project.  Rob has been following this project closely for years and has children currently attending the high school.  He knows firsthand the dismay and disbelief many of our high school students feel around the conditions of the school.  His letter to friends and neighbors is posted below.

Dear neighbors and friends,

I am writing this not as a representative of the PTA or as a member of the joint School District/Municipal Advisory Board but simply as a concerned parent and 15-year resident of Mt. Lebanon.

Recently, School Board member James Fraasch circulated an email concerning the High School Renovation Project.  His email was filled with worst-case scenarios, half-truths and distortions which served to mobilize a very vocal group of residents opposed to the project.  I will not delve into the details of his email and repudiate his misinformation; you can read the facts of the matter for yourselves and obtain correct information on the School District's web site.

As far as the proposed tax increase is concerned, nobody wants to see their taxes go up.  However, anyone who has had a child or grandchild attend the high school knows all too well the degraded state of that structure.  When you consider the potential health hazards posed by a persistently leaking roof and an inefficient HVAC system that is literally sending our tax dollars out the window(s), it is evident that this project has been delayed far too long and something needs to be done now.   Further, the cost differential of essential repairs to the building ($100 million) vs. a comprehensive renovation (maximum $113 million) are not enough to argue for the repair-only option when a patchwork job means we'll be paying considerably more to get it right ten years from now.

The High School Renovation Project has been discussed and shelved by previous School Boards for many years and construction costs only continue to rise. Some feel that during these economic times it is inappropriate to undergo such a project; however, Building B at the school was constructed during the depths of the Great Depression. As dire as these times may seem, I think we can all agree that this current financial crisis is not of the magnitude of the Great Depression. Furthermore, there are opportunities to be taken advantage of in the current economic climate such as the bond issue that was recently floated at a 40-year-low rate, an extremely favorable climate for construction bids, etc.

Now more than ever, School Board members need to hear from supporters of this project. The Act 34 Hearing on February 22 is a pivotal step in the process and public support is key to the project’s ultimate success. Our voices of support for the project need to be heard over the naysayers; this very vocal, and at times poorly behaved, group was out in full force at the January 18 School Board meeting and we need to counterbalance that so this project continues to move forward.

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending the Act 34 Hearing scheduled for February 22 at 7:00 pm in the high school’s Fine Arts Theater. If you are willing to speak, there is an opportunity to do so at the meeting, however, it is just as important to be in attendance as a show of support for the project. If you are unable to attend, please send an email or letter to the School Board in support of the project; your message doesn’t need to be lengthy, a few sentences will suffice. The School Board’s email is:

The time to act is NOW. Thank you.

Rob Papke
850 Vermont Avenue

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