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Warminster Board Okays Start of WREC Closure

Negotiations will begin for the handing over of the property to Centennial School District. Current tenants will have five months to leave the premises.

The Warminster Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to bring the fate of the WREC Center to what township manager Rich Manfredi called it's "inevitable conclusion."

With the 5-0 approval from the board, Manfredi and township solicitor Mary Eberle will begin the process of of the property back to the . The remaining tenants that did not move to Leary last year will have until the end of the year to find new space for their operations.

Manfredi pledged to concerned resisdents that space for the Parks and Recreation Department's programs would be acquired. He cited the and as possible locations and said more options are under consideration.

"I think it is a fair assumption that we will find the space we need to continue these programs by the end of the year," said board vice-chairperson Tom Panzer.

The township needed to accelerate its search for an answer to the WREC question last spring when a few of the building's rent-paying tenants to Leary Elementary. The move cost the parks department a large chunk of revenue, to the tune of $119,000, Manfredi said Thursday night.

A was formed to analyze the situation and come up with options for the community center, while the township officials continued talks with the school district.

The township has spent the past few years attempting to work out an agreement with the school district that would remove reversionary interest clauses from the lease, but to no avail. Centennial officials inserted the clauses and deed restrictions on the property when it sold Hart Elementary to Warminster for $1 in 1988, Eberle said.

"Those reversionary clauses completely hamstrung the township," said Eberle. She said the school district could simply take the property back whenever it wanted, a possibility that prevented the township from making any major renovations.

An agreement was made in 2009 that would have Centennial remove the clauses for $1 million, a sum made up of $272,000 in permit and zoning fee waivers by the township and money from the Bucks County Open Space fund.

Eberle told supervisors Thursday night that an application for the open space funds was never submitted. A representative from the county told Eberle that the grant would have probably been denied anyway because a deed restriction already protected the open space on the property. Nonetheless, the waivers were still granted, and Eberle figures that money is owed back to the township.

"This is not a happy ending," said supervisor Frank Feinberg. "We had earnest negotiations with the school district, and we did everything we promised, but the school board just opted out."

During a review of the WREC's timeline, Eberle revealed that Warminster officials expressed interest in acquiring the property when it was put up for sale by the school district, along with and . Centennial representatives asked for more fee waivers in lieu of cash payment, but an analysis of the request by township engineer Craig Kennard showed that the waivers totaled up to more than $1 million.

Not long after, the school district of all three school properties to County Builders, Inc. for a grand total of $1.3 million, or approximately $450,000 per site.

As the parks department programs scatter throughout the township, board president Leo Quinn hopes the situation will springboard his vision of having a new centralized community center at Warminster Community Park. 

Even if the township managed to remove the interest clause from the lease, he said, they would still have the major expense of rehabilitating a 60-year old building. Now, the parks and recreation department can continue building its reserve fund, which Manfredi said is at approximately $1 million.

Jack Ellis September 09, 2012 at 01:47 PM
..and also the twp's largest open space: the Five Ponds golf course. And pocket parks in front of the Wilson Sr Center and on Norristown Road.
Sarah Ronzelli September 09, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Jack Ellis, Thank You, finally someone has spoken the truth. I just hope the residents of our community finally see the truth with this situation. Closing the Wrec by December of this year has never made any sense, since the Supervisors do not have final plans for space for the programs. As you have stated this is all a ploy for a new building at the Community Park. This is such a political issue it is a disgrace! Well what do you expect, next year 2 Supervisors are up for election. Please remember how these Supervisors think of our children and their programs, then throw them out of office. Children first, politics second!!!
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Jack, you are wrong on so many things. I think it is time for you to go "winter" outside Warminster as you previously stated. It is obvious you have not been paying attention and then you come on here and make all these accusations. First, it does not appear to me that Karen is looking forward to the closure of the WREC. In fact, it appears quite the opposite to me. If adequate room can not be found for all her programs (and I am not saying I think we need them all but bear with me here) then this portion of what the Parks and Recreation has been doing for the last 25+ years under her direction is jeopardized for the future. Why would she want to do that? There is no way to build the "Taj Mahal' of Park and Rec facilities by the winter and we are just going to have to make do with what we have. In fact Jack, what is happening is quite the opposite of what you claim. Take this one FACT for example. (I know this will blow your mind but again, bear with me.) The Centennial School District was trying to sell the Twp the WREC building for $1M and when that appeared to have stalled, they tried to dump Longstreth on the Twp again for $1M. Once it was apparent neither of these options was viable to the Township, within days the CSD signed an agreement of sale of THREE buildings and all associated land for a whopping $1.2M. For the Twp to agree to the terms presented would have hamstrung the taxpayers for years to come...
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 03:53 AM
So Jack, unless you prefer the tactics of the previous board of Jarvis and company (where they also hamstrung the taxpayers for years to come with opening up a police contract and raising the cost of services for the next several years) then it should be clear the closure of the WREC building is simply due to the fact the building is beyond its useful life. IF one were able to secure the building outright from the CSD costing $1M, the building requires at least another $1M+ in repairs to the roof, electrical and HVAC units. So, if you can count that brings us up to over $2M and we would still have a 60+ year old building which does not address another serious issue, a Parks and Rec program which would be running a deficit on its yearly budget. But if you subscribe to Jarvis math, I guess we could just borrow more to pay for it. Isn't that a great idea which really benefits the taxpayer in the end? The "master plan" is just a long term vision of what could be built at WCP and as the needs of the community change, so should the master plan. Personally I believe if we can get our financial house in order, a great long strategy would be to plan on replacing the existing L&I, Police and Administration Buildings with a municipal complex, including recreation facilities in one location such as WCP in 10 years or so. But this needs to be done responsibly in order to not increase the tax burden on the people of Warminster.
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 03:54 AM
But why should you care Jack, you will be "wintering" elsewhere... Finally, while I guess it is sort of a compliment, I am not Tom Panzer. That would be like me saying you are Ellen Jarvis (are you?!).
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Actually Jack, Honest Mom is correct. There are no parks in the section of Warminster from Valley Road to York Road and Street Road to County Line Road. Perhaps if you were not "wintering" elsewhere you would know the Golf Course is on the other side of Street Road and is not for kids. There are no longer schools in this area as Leary has closed and has been sold to a developer. Kemper and WREC are on the other side of Street Road (along with park area in front of the treatment plant on Log College Rd as well as Barness Park, the two schools (Willow Dale and Log College) as well as the library. There is no pocket park in front of the Ben Wilson Center unless you think kids should play in retention basins (get your swim suits on kids!). And I have no idea what you are talking about on Norristown Road unless you consider the wetlands and open space alongside the pumping station and Shepard's Crossing a pocket park. I believe there were plans to build a walking path and a tot lot there but I am not sure what happened to these plans. I thought there was a meeting with neighbors but I haven't seen any update after seeing the meeting time posted on the website. So I think a better follow up to Honest Mom's question is "What is happening with the plans for the area alongside Shepard's Crossing"?
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Oh, I guess one other fun place to play is the cemetery on County Line but the gravestones hurt when you run into them playing tag...
Pete Krenshaw September 10, 2012 at 04:20 AM
One other question... Has anyone done the math on how much the referendum would have cost the taxpayers per month? $10? 12? What...we couldn't do without the extra latte on the way to work? Give me a break. Everyone will complain about the closure of the WREC which is rooted in a financial problem but at the same time you don't want to do anything which can improve the situation either. I guess we should simply stop doing the responsible duties, planning for the future using sound fiscal policies to pay for necessary improvements in the Township. Yeah, that will make Warminster a wonderful place for kids to grow up in. My kind of town...but only if my name is Jack Ellis.
HONEST MOM September 10, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Thank you Mr. Krenshaw. You're right ..Mr. Ellis is talking about the other side of Street Rd. As for the walking trail behind Shepard's Crossing I have not heard of a meeting about it and as far as I know neighbors have not be informed. Thankfully the kids in this area are far too respectful than to ever play in the cemetery. The grass in front of Ben Wilson is not for playing as you stated Mr. Krenshaw...it is exactly what you said...a water basin! I'd be interested too Mr. Ellis ..where is the park on Norristown Rd that you speak about? I've lived here a long time and I've never seen it!
racer x September 12, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Warminster votes down park development (Nov. 3, 2004) Warminster residents voted 6,901 to 4,976 against borrowing $10 million to develop Warminster Community Park on the former Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center, according to unofficial tallies Tuesday night."I was hoping that we were going to carry it, but it looks like the citizens spoke their minds," said Leo Quinn III, a township supervisor and liaison to the park and recreation board.
racer y September 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Parks & Recs asking for $10 million dollars. I found this in an old edition of the Bucks County Courier Times. Referendum sought on funds to improve park (Aug 24, 2004). Warminster residents may soon be asked whether borrowing money to develop Warminster Community Park is worth the price of a fast-food dinner or two each month for the next 20 years. The township's park and recreation department plans to ask the township supervisors on Thursday to consider placing a referendum on the November ballot asking voters if they want to borrow $10 million.
Pete Krenshaw September 13, 2012 at 04:35 AM
racer x, thank you for finding the article. That sounds like what I remembered. So now that it is time to do something, everyone is up in arms about it. We can't have it both ways. "Don't spend any money but provide everything for the kids..." I will just go pick some leaves off the money tree to make it happen.
Tired of Hypocrisy September 13, 2012 at 05:55 AM
As for the open space area between Norristown and Delmont, a meeting was held and all residents in that area received notification and most attended. A follow up survey was also given to the neighbors. From what I heard at the meeting, most residents did not want a play area, but agreed to a walking path. Not sure but most likely, Ms. Whitney and her staff have been focusing on the closure of the WREC and lining up where programs will be held & attention to the smaller pocket park has been put on the back burner. As for the Bond issue, what a shame that so many of the senior population worked so hard at its defeat. I was there, I watched and was mystified by their actions. If it had to do with The Ben Wilson building, it would have been a different outcome. Since the Township owns the senior center, perhaps they should take half of it to use for the programs from the WREC. To whomever posted about Mr. Quinn and Ms. Whitney misleading the public, hogwash! From the day the property was given over to Warminster, the community was asked numerous times for input in what they would like to see happen for WCP. Many who knew how Hart School was 'loaned' to the Township by the school district realized a central building at WCP would be terrific in the future. 10+years, the future is now here. Why is it wrong that not only Mr. Quinn, Ms. Whitney and others envisioned a township owned building for all, on WCP's grounds?
HONEST MOM September 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM
No not all residents were told there was a meeting and no not all residents in the area received notification. Yesterday I was told that the residents bordering the area proposed did not want the tot lot. MOST of those residents are living in the new homes being built by Christ Home. I mean no disrespect but no one asked me if I cared if so many older folks lived in my back yard. For the record...I don't care. The residents of this area have tolerated homes being built for years, we've tolerated noise at high levels on every day of the week, we've tolerated destruction of some of our fences, we've tolerated dirt covering our homes from the wind....honestly can't those residents who live in the new homes tolerate the laughter of small children? How about proper notification to all residents in the area not just a select few!
Pamela September 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM
i just loved how the SB would only sell Leary for $1M to the township, but they sell it to a developer for $425K....They won't lower the price on the "clause" for the WREC, and they won't lend space in these "mega" schools. Sneaky little snakes they are. I would prefer that the SD not get 75% of every tax dollar and that they only get 50%. Our township should get the 25% and then maybe we would not have to worry OUR WREC closing.
MW September 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Honest Mom, you are mistaken. Most of those residents that opposed the tot lot are not living in the new homes built by Christ Home. I am one of them and the tot lot was proposed to be directly behind my home, which is 57 years old, hardly brand new in my eyes. Yes, a tot lot is a great idea, but did you think of what would happen at night? Vandalism, teenagers hanging out, drinking, burning it down, all directly behind my back yard. Yes, it will happen. It has happened to many of the smaller parks in Warminster and even the WCP park. Sorry, but I do not want that in my backyard. I was not happy when Christ home built those homes, but I was fortunate that the Park and Rec were able to purchase the small piece of land that is behind my house. As far as people being notified, they were through a mailing done by the Park and Rec. I am not sure where you live, but many of my neighbors were at the meeting. There were people from as far over as Wellington in my neighborhood and also people from the other side of Norristown, so I don't believe that was just a select few. The people from Christ Home actually were very respectful and did not say much at the meeting. I am sure they knew how upset our neighborhood was when their homes were built. I believe they were there just to get information as to what was happening with the land.
MW September 13, 2012 at 02:52 PM
As for poor planning by the Park and Rec for the programs, what exactly were they supposed to do? How could they plan when they weren't even sure what they were planning for? The didn't know if they were staying at the WREC or not and all communication with the school board had been stopped (by the school board itself), so they were completely in the dark as to what was going to happen. I know the staff at the WREC are not happy about this happening, but they are doing their best to continue what programs they can. They are thinking of the children in our township, unlike the school board who has a continued history of lacking in that area. I, for one, am extremely sad that the WREC is closing because my children have taken part in many of the programs over there, but hopefully those programs will continue.
Pete Krenshaw September 13, 2012 at 03:15 PM
MW - is it possible to place the tot lot away from the back yards of the houses? I believe the parcel to be "developed" into the park is quite long and extends to Norristown Road. Perhaps the tot lot could be placed closer to the road.
MW September 13, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Mr. Krenshaw, we did ask that to happen if they were going to put a tot lot. They said that it could be an option. It also made a little more sense because they would be able to put a very small parking lot off of Norristown then also. For the most part, I think my neighbors were very open to the walking path because the Park and Rec said that there would also be a buffer of trees and bushes put in so that it was not directly behind our homes. I think one of the problems with the tot lot, besides the vandalism and lack of access for the emergency services, was the noise level. I know after living here for 8 years, having a quiet space behind my house is wonderful and many of my neighbors have been here 30 plus years and didn't want that to change much. We were hoping for just more of a passive park with the walking path, benches, trees and bushes. I think after the WREC closing, this little park has definetly been bumped down on the list, as it should be. I much prefer them concentrating on what they are going to do come January.
Pete Krenshaw September 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
MW - thanks for the additional information. I understand your view of not wanting your back yard to change much and hopefully all the needs can be met for the community, including you and your neighbors. I also can see how the Park & Rec staff has been distracted, for lack of a better word, by the closure of the WREC. Obviously they have been focusing their attention, as they should be, on the programs and all that goes along with closing a facility. At the same time, it seems to me after the closure of the WREC, space such as these pocket parks will become even more critical as an outlet for the community - even if it is just a tot lot and a walking path. With a large open field, I could see kids playing flag football, stick ball, soccer... I understand the space can not be fully developed due to its status as "open space" and this should also jive with your desire to not change your back yard too much as well. Anyway, thanks again for the update on this particular property and its potential future use.
MW September 13, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I agree with you for the need of the open space with the WREC closing. I know alot of my neighbors utilize it now also. Playing football, baseball, etc. In fact, a softball team for Warminster practiced there every week in the spring due to lack of fields. I just remembered that there also another issue with the land. There is protected wetlands that they need to work around to connect Norristown to the larger area behind our homes. I'm not exactly clear on all of that, I just know there is one specific area that is protected and then another area that evidently is constantly damp. Hopefully whatever is put there will be an added bonus to the neighborhood and entire community.
HONEST MOM September 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM
I was told by a board member that many residents of senior housing opposed the park respectfully. I was also told by a township employee that the immediate residents bordering the proposed tot lot opposed it. I live closer than Wellington and my neighbors and I received nothing. I have more faith in the kids in our neighborhood than to believe any one of them would vandalize anything! Our kids are respectful in this neighborhood. If you don't already know that maybe you should take the time to meet some of them. Honestly it wouldn't be in your backyard. It would have been on township property. Bottom line this neighborhood deserves a park. Every other section of Warminster has something for the kids. To my knowledge that land was donated not purchased. To be honest if it were up to me there would be not only a tot lot but basketball courts for the teens. If it were behind my house I would love it! I actually believe in the goodness of kids and enjoy seeing them have a good time. You don't seem to have much faith in kids and I'm sorry you feel that way. The kids I've encountered, the kids I have raised don't burn down anything, don't drink in the park and don't vandalize. I believe this neighborhood's kids aren't disrespectful like that. I'm very tired of when something is for the good of the kids it gets shot down!
HONEST MOM September 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Kids making noise? Come on...kids laughing and playing actually bothers you? That is so sad. Dear God if people wanted to live in solitude maybe a farm would be better for you. Vandals...please .....you know and I know there is no vandalism in our section at all. We all have raised nice kids so please stop insulting kids! Do you even realize that you're saying places for kids are nice as long as it's not in your area?
Tired of Hypocrisy September 15, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Perhaps Honest Mom instead of suggesting those opposed to a tot lot "Should move to a farm", she should have purchased a home near a tot lot and park. It is odd to me how people can sit and complain but NEVER showed up to one P & R meeting or Township meeting while this has been discussed for over three years. Always a critic, never constructive. Also odd how someone who supposedly lives within the vicinity of the open space did not receive a notice when in fact all those who would be impacted were along with neighboring streets. The few residents of Christ Home who attended the meeting were respectful of the neighboring residents and did not voice concern either way. There are other area's of Warminster that do not have tot lots. In fact, until NAWC was turned into WCP there was no park in the neigborhoods from Davisville Road to Jacksonville Road which comprises a large area and having lived in the area many years, do not recall any residents complaining about not having a park like other area's. Most bought their homes because they had rear yards for their children and neighbors children to play in. Perhaps instead of bickering, those that are unhappy should attend meetings so they are aware of what is happening in the Township and not receive information second or third hand.
HONEST MOM September 15, 2012 at 01:17 AM
TOH I have been to plenty of board meetings so don't assume I have never been there. I have also spoken with neighbors who live even closer than me and they received no notice of a meeting either. I bought a home that was in a multi generational area. My neighbors all love the sound of kids playing. I'm not the one who complained I don't like noise! The area from Davisville to Jacksonville had Monroe Park, Werner Park, the area that used to exist behind McDonald. McDonald had a playground and open area, Monroe has open fields and a play area and Werner Park is open.
HONEST MOM September 15, 2012 at 01:22 AM
BTW I don't care if it's a tot lot, a playground, open space or a basketball court...I just think our kids deserve and need something in our section of the township not a walking trail! Again I would have gladly have attended the meeting if I had been notified like the people who attended. I suggested those that want to live in solitude since they are worried about the noise level might like a farm better:) No neighbors...no noise:)
MW September 15, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Yes, that's exactly what I said about not liking kids laughing and playing, I especially hate hearing my own. Seriously, don't put words in my mouth and call me sad. I find it sad that because someone has an opinion other than your own that you feel it okay to attack that person. And, sorry, I live in the real world where there has been vandalism in the parks. If you don't believe me, talk to the Park and Rec people, or the police chief for that matter. I do have faith in the kids in our neighborhood, which yes I do know many of them considering my children play and are friends with them (again, you put words in my mouth, seems to be a pattern), but it's not those kids that are the vandals. I'm talking about the kids who do go to these parks and playgrounds and destroy them viciously. As for living on a farm, I absolutely would have loved to, but unfortunately I am not rich so I did the next best thing by buying a house that was behind a farm. And again, I was very happy when the Park and Rec were able to secure the portion that happens to be behind my house. If I wanted a park or playground behind my house, I would have bought one there, but I didn't. And amazingly, I'm not the only one who wasn't crazy about the noise level rising behind my home, all of my neighbors shared the same opinion. I just feel fortunate that the Park and Rec actually had the respect to ask our opinion before going forward with any plans.
MW September 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
And as for the area between Davisville and Jacksonville having a park, McDonald was it. There was a navy base between those neighborhoods and Munroe and Werner, and the government wasn't very fond of people who didn't belong on it to be there. I know because I grew up there. And if you didn't care, you certainly have quite an opinion about it, which is fine, but atleast have the facts right.
HONEST MOM September 20, 2012 at 10:50 AM
MW I have not put words in your mouth. The following are yours. "I think one of the problems with the tot lot, besides the vandalism and lack of access for the emergency services, was the noise level." I'm sincerely sorry if you thought I was attacking you. I'm really not. I'm simply stating my opinion that I do think it's sad that the goodness that could come out of a tot lot for the many young families in our neighborhood is something you can't see. MW there will be vandals, noise in all aspects of life at one time or another but that doesn't mean it would happen in there. You are assuming the worse. I tend to see life as the cup half full not half empty. I believe it would have been a wonderful addition to our neighborhood. I too think it's very nice that Park and WREC asked the neighbors opinions before going forward. I just wish they would have included all the neighbors in the area. I've spoken to many neighbors over the past week and it seems very strange that not one person I asked received notice about this park meeting. Yes but even you had McDonald didn't you? The areas I mentioned are now open to those kids. What do the kids in this section have? There is nothing for kids! What I said above is that that I don't care what it is as long as it's for the KIDS. A walking trail is not for kids..that would be for the adults.
Tony Simek November 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Families with children have been leaving Warminster for a long time because of the school board's lack of priority towards students. I've known several families who have left over the years all because of school issues. My personal regret is that I moved here with school aged children. Now as I am nearing retirement it is clear that I have to rethink staying because of the costs. Somewhere on a website I think I saw "Warminster, A Great Place to Raise a Family". Definitely not living up to the billing.

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