Supervisors to Consider Returning WREC to School District
The loss of tenants and the expense of necessary renovations has made the building too costly for the township.
The ongoing question regarding the fate of Warminster's WREC Center may finally be answered tonight at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
On the agenda for tonight is a resolution that authorizes township manager Rich Manfredi and solicitor Mary Eberle to close the building and return the property to the Centennial School District.
Manfredi said the Warminster Parks and Recreation Department took a hit last year when several tenants ended their leases and moved their operations to Leary Elementary. Compounded with the cost of necessary building repairs, including a new roof, has made retention of the WREC too expensive.
"Our current tenants are also getting hit hard by the economy," said Manfredi. "One of them asked us to reduce the rent by 50 percent, but we just cannot afford that."
Preparations are underway to relocate parks and recreation programs to other facilities in the township, such as the community room at the Warminster Library. Manfredi has been negotiating the acquisition of a 2,500 square-foot modular building that would be placed in Warminster Community Park.
"When the storage shed at Munro Park caught fire," said Manfredi, "a company in New Jersey offered us the unit. It was too large to accommodate our needs there, but the company agreed to sell it to us at a nominal fee for other parks and recreation needs."
The township will not receive any monetary compensation for the return of the building, but Manfredi hopes the move will give the Centennial administration more incentive to pay back $272,000 that he feels is owed to Warminster.
Warminster has held the lease for the former Hart Elementary school since 1988, but the school district maintained a reversionary clause for the property. The existence of this clause would allow the school district to take back possession of the property if either the township ceased using it for educational purposes or if Centennial demonstrated an imminent need for the space.
Fears of spending large amounts of money to renovate the building only to see it repossessed by the school district prevented any major work from being performed.
Talks and negotiations between the two parties have been ongoing for years. In 2009, an agreement was made for Warminster to purchase the reversionary clause from Centennial for $1 million. Of the sale price, $272,000 would come from the waiver of zoning and permit fees for the construction of the new high school, and the remainder would be funded by an open space grant from Bucks County. The grant fell through, but the waivers were still enacted.
Since the reversionary clause was never sold to the township, Manfredi thinks the school district should pay the money back.
"That is a separate issue, though," said Manfredi. "The return of the property would not be held up by that matter."
Manfredi would also like to open discussions about using school grounds for parks and recreation programs, but communication between the township and Centennial has not been ideal.
"They won't talk about providing us space until we present a full proposal," said Manfredi, "but I can't compile a proposal until I know if they have space and how much we can get. We're talking in circles right now."
Centennial administrators were unavailable for comment at this time.