Woodland Hills School Board will have the weekend to mull over two presentations, and a number of citizen comments and questions, before reconvening Monday, Jan. 28, to vote on whether to sell the district administrative office building in Churchill and move to leased space in Braddock.
(Those interesting in speaking at the meeting, see information at end of story.)
TREK Development Group of Pittsburgh has offered to buy the administration building at 2430 Greensburg Pike for $625,000. The group would raze the former Churchill Elementary School building and construct a senior citizen apartment building with about 48 units. TREK is also offering to lease office space to the school district in a new building being constructed on the site of the former UPMC Braddock Hospital for about $150,000 a year.
But Wednesday night, TREK put some other offers on the table. One would be to remove the condition of selling the administration building and just move the district offices to the leased space in Braddock. Another offer that William Gatti, owner of Trek, offered was for the district to keep the Churchill property, lease the Braddock space and give TREK an option to purchase the former site of Eastmont School on Jefferson Heights Road so the developer could pursue senior housing there.
Another player surfaced near the end of the meeting. Karen Lamoureux, chief executive officer of Pace School, which abuts the administration building, said that a previous offer to purchase the building for $500,000, or 20 percent over the assessed value of the property, was still on the table. School board Vice President Marilyn Messina had noted earlier in the meeting that Pace had withdrawn its offer—and she stated she would investigate why the board was told that if Pace was still interested.
About 100 people attended Wednesday's meeting and many voiced support for keeping the Churchill property while others contended the move to Braddock would benefit the district.
Dolores Patterson of Churchill pointed to a conflict of interest in having the developer involved in both the sale and the lease agreements. She said the property's value is best determined by competitive bidding.
Steve Karas of Forest Hills and George Ratliff of Churchill both suggested using some of the space available in district buildings rather than leasing new space for the administrative staff.
Other residents offered suggestions ranging from floating a bond issue to cover the cost of renovations for the current building to getting an independent analysis of the figures provided by TREK.
Still others encouraged the district to take part in helping rebuild Braddock by relocating there.
Adam Schaible, a Braddock resident, pointed to all the activity taking place in Braddock. He asked the board, "Would you like to join us in the revitalization and get in on the ground floor?"
Board member Robert Clanagan pointed to accessibility issues that Braddock parents have in getting to Churchill. The new building would enable them to walk to the district offices or take a bus from neighboring communities.
Board member Bob Tomasic said he is not in favor of selling any property because it might be needed in the future. Tara Reis, board member, questioned how the move might benefit the district's students and the future cost of leasing space.
"In five years, how are we going to pay the rent?" she asked. "Lay off teachers and support staff?"
The board decided to recess the meeting and reconvene at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, in the Woodland Hills High School auditorium. To register to speak, call and/or email Tomeka Billingsley at 412-731-1300, ext. 0124 or firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.
Friday on Patch: A look at TREK's proposal and how the district's interest in the Braddock office space came about.