BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF
The Elk Lake School Board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, to vote on whether to proceed with plans for an estimated $8.6 million expansion project for the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m.
It is scheduled to be held in the high school library, the regular meeting place for the board. However, in the past when the project was discussed and large crowds were expected, meetings were moved to the high school auditorium.
The board decided to hold the extra session at its regular meeting last Tuesday (Oct. 19).
Superintendent William Bush noted that construction bids are due into the school district by Oct. 28. The board wanted to set a date as soon as possible after that, but also give architect John Kropcho enough time to review the bids to make sure they meet specifications.
Several dates were discussed, and some rejected because board members had conflicts.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 17.
The board authorized the advertising for bids last month when it approved the latest in a series of planning modules required by the state Department of Education. Those modules are necessary for the project to be eligible for state reimbursement.
The expansion project includes new facilities for existing educational programs as well as new programs that are planned.
They include courses in auto body collision and repair technician; vehicle maintenance and small engine repair technology; security and protective services; electrical, electronics and communications engineering technology; health information and medical records technology, and criminal justice / police science.
In addition to Elk Lake, six other school districts send students to the center, including Blue Ridge, Lackawanna Trail, Montrose Area, Mountain View, Susquehanna Community and Tunkhannock Area.
Elk Lake owns and operates the career center, which is why it is responsible for the expansion. In the past, school officials noted that much of Elk Lake’s outlay would come back through tuitions paid by students from the other districts.
In the past, board members have stated that the school district won’t be committed to go forward with the project until construction bids are awarded.
In another matter, board secretary Kim Hollister noted that there have been a number of requests for information about revenue the board gets from the gas well on school property.
Cabot Oil & Gas operates a well a few hundred yards behind the elementary school.
The district received its first royalty payment in June for $246.688.41.
Payments since then were $49.432.65 in July, $55.147.81 in August and $71,689 in September, Hollister said, for a total of $422,958.05.
Hollister pointed out that the monthly royalty payment is listed as a line item on the revenue page of each month’s budget report that is distributed to members and the public at board meetings, titled “Cabot gas payment.”
Also, Bush gave a brief report on the district-wide evacuation drill held on Oct. 8. He said administrators held an evaluation meeting following the drill and came up with a few items that need improvement, but overall the exercise was a success.
Board president Chuck Place commented that that he has seen and heard remarks that people are displeased with the plan because it was not specifically geared to an emergency at the gas well.
The board also opted to sign with Allegheny Energy as the district’s new electricity supplier, beginning in 2011.
Under state law, rate caps for electricity expire this year, meaning customers may see a wide variety of options among utility providers.
The board made its decision after hearing an explanation of various rates and contracts available from Kim Guiton, who heads the district’s energy efficiency program.
The three-year contract locks the district in at a rate of 6.79 cents per kilowatt-hour for energy production costs. That does not include the distribution rate, Guiton said, which will continue to be handled by Penelec.
In another energy-related matter, the board heard a presentation from Jared Quient of Amsolar, a San Diego, Calif., company that operates solar power generating facilities.
Quient told the board of the company’s interest in having Elk Lake sign up to have a solar panel array set up on school property. He described several options available, some of which he said could provide the district with substantial energy cost savings along with other benefits.
The board also voted to change its regular meeting date to the third Thursday of every month, starting with Jan. 20, 2011.
Bush said changing the date will be a better situation for the district’s business office and administration.
He acknowledged that board meetings often run late, and when they are on Tuesday nights, the effect carries into the following work day and the rest of the week. By moving the meetings to Thursday, he said that may be minimized.
“Thursday night allows us to prepare the meeting, get through the meeting and get through one day,” Bush said.