MILTON — Less than a month after approving an estimated $7.8 million renovation project to the Milton Area School District’s outdoor athletic facilities, the board heard an $8.9 million proposal to build a 24,000-square-foot addition onto the high school building.
Athletic Director Rod Harris said during Tuesday’s board committee session that the addition is proposed to include an 8,500-square-foot turf room, fitness center, locker rooms, training room, high school wrestling mat room and a glass hallway overlooking the new stadium.
In addition, existing indoor space would be renovated to include a middle school wrestling mat room, physical education offices and gender-neutral locker rooms.
Following the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan explained that the turf room would be an indoor playing field that could be used by teams for practice in the event of inclement weather.
She said the turf room alone is proposed to cost between $2.2 and $2.7 million.
“It’s a big sticker shock,” Harris told the board. “It’s a lot of money to spend… Now is our opportunity, our time, to hit a home run and do it the right way… No other district around here will have anything like we have.”
The board in August approved moving forward with a $10 million renovation project at Baugher Elementary School.
The board in July approved borrowing $9.9 million, to be used for renovation projects in the district. The district secured a 2.7 percent interest rate for the borrowing, which will be paid back through 2047.
Prior to approving borrowing those funds, Melissa Hughes of PFM Financial Advisors said over the next three years the district will be borrowing $30 million and refinancing $4 million in existing debt for a variety of potential renovations projects highlighted in the district’s feasibility study.
Following the board’s September meeting, Keegan said the action taken by the board in July will cover the cost of the renovations at Baugher and the athletic facilities.
She cautioned the board on Tuesday that if it moves forward with the high school expansion project, it will be nearing $30 million in projects.
Before looking at adding the turf room, board member Eric Moser said the district needs to evaluate what other areas are in need of renovation.
Keegan said the high school’s HVAC system needs to be replaced. Previous estimates placed that project at $1.3 to $1.8 million.
She said the board should also consider sound and lighting upgrades to the high school auditorium.
“Lighting is not cheap,” she said. “I think it’s a several-hundred-thousand-dollar bill.”
Prior to moving forward with making any decisions on the proposed building expansion, the board agreed to investigate whether pole buildings could be constructed to house concession stands, a ticket center and restrooms in order to bring down the cost of the stadium renovation project.
The new stadium is proposed to feature a turf field, eight-lane synthetic track and new home bleachers, which will have locker rooms and storage space built underneath.
When looking at potential costs to be incurred by the district with its proposed project, Keegan said the district has recognized a $150,000 savings in transportation costs with the closure of Montandon Elementary School at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. With those savings included, Keegan said it’s now estimated the district will recognize $500,000 in savings with the closure of the school and consolidating students and staff to Baugher Elementary School.
Keegan confirmed both during and after the meeting that the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) and Diversified Treatment Alternatives are no longer interested in leasing space in the school building.
The board in September approved the superintendent, administrators and district solicitor to “prepare any necessary documents with the intention to lease portions of Montandon Elementary School” to CSIU and Diversified Treatment Alternatives.
At a September committee session, Keegan said CSIU was looking to lease 11,952 square feet of the building, while Diversified Treatment Services hoped to lease 7,025 square feet.
CSIU would have paid $145,000 per year for the space, which CSIU Assistant Executive Director Dr. John Kurelja said would have been used to house the organization’s LPN career center.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Keegan said Diversified Treatment Alternatives backed out of pursuing a lease agreement as the space available wouldn’t have been enough for its purposes. She will be reaching back out to the organization since CSIU is also no longer interested in the space.
According to Keegan, CSIU has declined to pursue a lease agreement as the timing does not match with notifications it must give to a current landlord.
In order to lease space in the building to other entities, Keegan said the district must file a special application with the West Chillisquaque Township zoning board.
Board Vice President Brett Hosterman explained that the application is necessary as the building would be used for private purposes rather than by a public school.
Board members verbally indicated the district should move forward with filing the special application.
Township Solicitor Robert Benion said during the September school board meeting that he was authorized by the township supervisors to “explore the possibility of bringing a suit against the school board” for closing the school.
Keegan said on Tuesday she has received no further information on whether the township will be proceeding with “any type of lawsuit.”
Moser said he’s disappointed the township is not supporting the school district’s efforts.
“I’m very disappointed in the leadership at West Chillisquaque Township for not being on board with us,” he said.
As the result of a discussion with board members during the committee session, Keegan said she will pursue having a market analysis done on the Montandon building in order to find out how much the district could receive for the building if it opts to sell it.