By Michael P. Buffer, Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice
PLAINS TWP. — The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted Thursday to hire Borton Lawson Architecture to design a second sports stadium complex in the school district.
The new stadium complex will be at Solomon Plains Elementary/Jr. High School in Plains Township. The other is Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium by Meyers High School in the city.
Installing seats, lights and artificial turf at the football field at Solomon Plains is estimated to cost $5 million to $7 million. According to the motion to hire Borton Lawson, the district will pay fees ranging from 2.2 percent and 4.25 percent of the construction cost and an additional fee of $25,000 for land development.
The board on Thursday also approved a recommendation to replace an elevated walkway at Meyers. Because of deterioration to the walkway, the city in September closed the Carey Avenue tunnel that leads to the stadium field and an interior parking lot at Meyers, and an ambulance could no longer park on the field during football games.
Gary Salijko, a district facility consultant with Apollo Group Inc., said the cost to replace the walkway and six steel beams should be $50,000 or less. The project should allow an ambulance to drive under the walkway and get to the field, Salijko said.
During a football game shortly after the tunnel was closed, a player broke his leg, and the game was delayed 10 minutes while officials waited for ambulance personnel to arrive on the field with a stretcher. Then the game was delayed another 10 minutes as the player was carried from the field and up steps to an ambulance on Old River Road.
During the public comment session at Thursday’s meeting, attorney Kim Borland questioned the need for a second stadium with lights. Borland is active with a group known as Save Our Schools, which has opposed the district’s current building plan. The plan includes the expansion of Kistler Elementary School in South Wilkes-Barre and the construction of a new high school at the Coughlin High School site in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Those projects are estimated to cost more than $100 million, and the new high school building would allow Coughlin and Meyers to merge in 2020. The district is also considering a plan to demolish most of the Meyers building in 2020, preserve the Meyers auditorium and renovate the football stadium on the site.
Save Our Schools wants the district to get a second opinion on the cost to renovate the entire Meyers building. District consultants claim renovating the entire Meyers building would cost $113 million.
The board decided last year to merge Meyers and Coughlin after officials determined the district could no longer afford to operate three high schools. GAR High School is the other district high school and is not part of the consolidation plan.
The board on Thursday awarded a $77,500 bid to Ambech Inc. for a mold-remediation and asbestos-abatement project in a shop room at GAR High School. Thursday’s meeting was at Solomon Plains Elementary/Jr. High School.
Board member John Quinn attended Thursday’s meeting. It was his first meeting back since he had quadruple bypass surgery in September.
The board also approved a collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents custodial and maintenance workers. It is effective from last July through June 2021.
It eliminates staffing requirements for buildings, and that will allow the district to save nearly $500,000 by not replacing seven retired custodians, Solicitor Ray Wendolowski said. It promotes several employees, which will increase costs by more than $100,000, but doesn’t increase wages in the current pay scale, Wendolowski said.