Derry shelves plan for $6 million complex
Frank Skacel Jr. was opposed to a plan for a $6 million upgrade to the athletic complex at Derry Area School District.
“Our tax rate is already higher than in adjacent areas, so I’m definitely against the district spending on this,” said Skacel, 60, of Derry Township.
District officials have listened to the many residents who agreed with Skacel.
School board President Nathan Doherty said the project will be shelved as a result of public outcry over the possibility of tax increases to complete it.
“We did what the taxpayers wanted at this time,” Doherty said.
The project would have meant constructing a 19,520-square-foot building to house a fitness center, two locker-rooms, coaches’ and trainers’ rooms, a batting cage, a multipurpose room, restrooms and a concessions area at an for about $4.2 million.
It would have included four new tennis courts at $300,000; new and repaved asphalt walks and aprons within the stadium complex for $252,000; a new press box for $122,000; new electrical systems for $110,000; a new scoreboard for $25,000; a stadium sound system for $29,000; and new ticket booths for $10,000.
The proposal was presented last fall by the board after a feasibility study by Sharon-based HHSDR Architects/Engineers.
The study’s primary focus was the pending $22 million project to upgrade Grandview Elementary School to make room for additional K-5 students from Loyalhanna and New Derry elementary schools, which will be closed.
That project required a 0.5-mill property tax increase this year, bringing the total to 5.5 mills, said Joe Koluder, district business manager. One mill generates $124,725.
“Nathan and the rest of the board members tallied the information gathered from the public and it definitely influenced their decision,” Koluder said.
At a June 15 public hearing, about half of the attendees spoke against the athletic project, Doherty said. The district received 1,000 similar responses to surveys mailed to district households.
“The reality is we had to raise money for the Grandview project, but there was never any money set aside for the athletic improvements,” Doherty said.
The board could reconsider any of the proposed enhancements if it means making the athletic facilities safer or more helpful in educating students, Doherty said.
“I’ll never say we’ll never do any of these things … there will come a point when we just can’t fix things anymore,” Doherty said.
Skacel — who responded to the survey — said he’d prefer that the district pursue private funding for such projects.
“I’m glad they didn’t go to Plan B now, like they do in so many other places,” Skacel said.