School board conveys Allegheny Valley to Clarendon

The former Allegheny Valley Elementary School

Warren County School District has a number of buildings that are no longer used as schools on its books.

On Monday, the school board approved an item that will likely give away one of the best of those properties.

Clarendon Borough Mayor Tom Eaton approached the board months ago to ask that the members consider giving the Allegheny Valley Elementary School to the borough.

Eaton said the building would be used to house the borough offices, voting precinct, and as headquarters for veterans organizations. Space would also be used to create a shelter for homeless veterans.

Over the intervening months, the board has contemplated the possibilities and two possibilities were on the agenda Monday — to put the property out to bid or to convey it to the borough.

There was support for each on the board.

“Of all the buildings that we’ve had, this is the one that is worth the most money,” board member Mary Passinger said. “We are constantly being very vocal that the money isn’t there.”

She suggested that the board put the building out to bid. If the bids were not acceptable, the board could still decide to give the building to the borough.

“I hate that we’re writing off this building which might be the most valuable building that we have,” Passinger said. While she wanted to test the waters, “I am absolutely not against giving it to the borough, at all.”

Board member Elizabeth Huffman said she would like to see some revenue out of the property.

“My husband is a veteran,” she said. “We know what the program does for veterans and families.”

But, “I do have an obligation to ensure that I am making (appropriate) financial decisions…”

She said she, along with the rest of the board, have committed to a number of budget cuts that are not what they would like to do.

Selling the building might bring enough money to the board to pay a teacher for a year, she said, or to buy iPads for students who would most benefit from them.

Initiating a bid process would not require that the district sell to the highest bidder. The board would have the right to simply not sell.

“I’ll choose to disagree with Ms. Huffman and Ms. Passinger,” board member Jeff Labesky said. “I feel that housing 10 or 12 homeless veterans outweighs one teacher. I will vote no (to the bid process).”

“Even the expected revenue we could derive if we could sell it… I’m not in support of putting it out to bid,” Colosimo said.

“I’m totally in favor of conveyance,” board member Mike Zamborik said.

The motion to put the property out to bid failed with Huffman and Passinger the only votes in favor.

The next vote was a modification of the original motion to give the property to the borough.

Board member Arthur Stewart moved that the board convey the property with some restrictions — including that the playground remain public, that Head Start be allowed to continue using the building as it has, and that there be some “dollar consideration.”

“We have invested a lot of money in that building over the years,” Stewart said.

The motion also called for a final vote by the board and a “sales agreement.”

“There still has to be another vote that comes after the agreement is finalized,” he said. “It’s contingent on mutually agreeable terms of the sales agreement.”

The modified motion passed, with Labesky and Passinger voting against.

During the final comment period, Clarendon VFW/AMVETS Post Commander Dave Progar proposed a “dollar consideration.”

He said the veterans organizations already give many thousands of dollars to the schools and students each year.

“How many iPads are we talking about?” he asked. “200 iPads? We’ll buy them. We’ll donate them to the school.”

“We respect the school district. We respect the students,” Progar said. “We’ll continue to do that.”