Centennial Finds Buyer for Closing Elementary Schools

If the agreement is finalized, County Builders will purchase the Leary, Longstreth and Stackpole properties for approximately $1.2 million.

As the students, teachers and parents prepare for the final stages of Centennial School District's consolidation process, the answer to the question of what will happen to the vacant , and buildings became a little clearer during Tuesday night's school board meeting.

With a unanimous vote, the board directed the Real Estate Counsel to prepare an agreement of sale for the properties to County Builders for a grand total of $1,275,000 ($425,000 per site). The agreements will include a 60-day period for both parties to perform due diligence, plus an additional 30 days until the closing date.

County Builders has not made public its intention for the sites, but since they are all zoned as R2, it's a safe bet that they will be turned into residential units and incorporated into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Centennial Business Adminstrator Chris Berdnik said that the revenue generated from the sales would be reflected in new budget projections for Monday's Finance Committee meeting. The most recent adjustment showed an assumed revenue of $850,000 from the sales of the Dot Henry Satellite School to Ivyland Borough, Leary and Stackpole.

According to the consolidation schedule, at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year Stackpole students will join the former Davis Elementary students at the new Region 1 school, and Longstreth students will move to McDonald Elementary, then the entire school will transfer to the new Region 2 building in March 2013.

Leary students have already transferred to the renovated and expanded . Centennial leased classroom space at Leary Elementary to organizations such as the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, BARC and Head Start, convincing them to move out of Warminster's WREC Center.

The hole in the township's parks and recreation department's budget, forcing Warminster administrators to explore options to either sell the property or make capital improvements to dramatically improve the building's condition. Either choice will require the township to purchase the reversionary interest clause that Centennial has maintained since signing over the lease for the former Hart Elementary in 1988.

The school board also approved a $92,870 agreement with Reynolds Consulting Engineers to commission William Tennent, Willow Dale, McDonald and Davis after the construction projects are completed. The group will test and review all of the buildings' systems and utilities and ensure they meet the estimated performace specifications.

The lone dissent in the 8-1 vote came from school director Jane Schrader-Lynch, who found it "interesting" that Reynolds Consulting Engineers is a sister company of Reynolds Construction Management, which has overseen the district-wide project since 2008.

Generally speaking, many engineering experts recommend that third party firms conduct commissioning services to ensure an unbiased report free from any conflicts of interest. If a particular item does not meet the agreed expectations, it would be on the builder's shoulders to pay for any repairs and adjustments. The potential added cost could tempt a subsidiary to overlook any discrepancies.

Centennial Superintendant Dr. Jennifer Cressman and Operations Committee chairwoman Kati Driban said such a scenario would be highly unlikely because Reynolds Construction Management directed the progress of the school construction, but other contractors and sub-contractors performed the actual work. 

"If something needs to be addressed," said Driban, "Reynolds engineers will put together an action plan, and it will be up to the contractors to pay for its execution."

Emily Cohen April 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM
If County Builders will be responsible for demolition costs, grading the property to prepare for residential construction, and other costs (i.e. the properties are sold "as-is"), then it's actually a good deal for the district.
Fed up Taxpayer April 11, 2012 at 01:26 PM
If that figure is correct, I have a real problem with the leadership of the Centennial School Board. That is a real slap in the face to to the taxpayers in the district.
Lynette Dempsey April 11, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I totally agree! Oh...don't get me started! I'm sick about this whole school consolidation to begin with! I live very near Leary and seriously would like to have seen a nice park added to our very large neighborhood! What a benefit that would have been!
Pete Krenshaw April 11, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I suspect the District felt they could get more as well but keep in mind there is a cost to demolish the existing buildings. This can get even pricier considering the age of the buildings and the significant possibility of the need for asbestos abatement before you can really tear them down. Also, there may be some deed restrictions which will need to be resolved depending on the property and how it was obtained originally by the District. That being said, I would have thought $700,000 each as a realistic dollar figure for each property.
James Boyle (Editor) April 11, 2012 at 01:36 PM
That's a good point. I hadn't considered that.
Pete Krenshaw April 11, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I personally feel selling the land is a bad idea as it simply gives a "one-time" infusion of cash. And obviously, the amount of cash seems to make it a pointless endeavor.
Pete Krenshaw April 11, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Lynette - In order for the school land to become a park, the Township would have to buy it and maintain it unless the School District is willing to do it on their own (in which case it would not be affiliated with the Township park system at all). I seriously doubt the Township has the money to take this kind of acquisition on when you consider the dealings going on with the WREC and the hiring freeze instituted at the Township.
JFS April 11, 2012 at 02:24 PM
All those new homes will bring in alot more kids to a school district that will not have room for them. The school district did not put much thought into this as usual. I guess they will have to buy some other properties to build a few more schools after all is said and done. It is scary to realize how our schools are being managed by clueless administrators.
Sarah Ronzelli April 11, 2012 at 02:26 PM
ESC, your comments make a lot of sense. Yes, the price seems low but, what if these schools were boarded up and just left vacant for a few years, what would happen to the neighborhood in which they were located? Demolitions costs are expensive and mostly would amount to $200,000.00 per school. I believe these schools must be sold to protect the neighborhoods. The ideal situation would be have the Township buy the schools but I understand they stated they don't have any money. Township can't even make a offer on the WREC center. It truly is a shame that purchased their homes next to these schools and now find out that the school is being sold. I am one of these people and never believed this would ever happen to my neightbor.
James Boyle (Editor) April 11, 2012 at 02:39 PM
If you don't see your comment posted right away, please bear with us. We have a new moderation system and still working out the kinks. I'm pushing the ones caught by the filter, and they will show up eventually.
Pete Krenshaw April 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I tried posting this earlier but it appears to be stuck in the filters... 9:35 am on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 I suspect the District felt they could get more as well but keep in mind there is a cost to demolish the existing buildings. This can get even pricier considering the age of the buildings and the significant possibility of the need for asbestos abatement before you can really tear them down. Also, there may be some deed restrictions which will need to be resolved depending on the property and how it was obtained originally by the District. That being said, I would have thought $700,000 each as a realistic dollar figure for each property.
Lisa Gresley April 11, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I agree that the numbers seem awefully low for the size of the property. If they sell one house built on the property they will get their money back! Why should we just accept that price. It is way too low.
Lisa Gresley April 11, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Any builider has to perform those responsibilities anyway and it is built into the cost of the rebuild. It is not a good deal for the district.
Emily Cohen April 11, 2012 at 06:58 PM
It is not automatically the responsibility of the builder. Those are negotiable items that could be the responsibility of either party. There are varying levels and grading needs throughout the property, which would necessitate equipment rental at a minimum. By selling the properties this quickly, the district is reducing other hidden carrying costs, such as insurance, maintenance, security, and taxes. It's no different than a homeowner selling a property sooner for a slightly lower cost, thereby reducing carrying costs incurred by holding out for a higher price that may never occur. Sell now, reduce the possibility of these properties becoming an eyesore for the community, and also reduce the possibility of a decrease in value.
Kevin Quinn April 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I still find it funny that just a few months ago the School Board argued during a joint meeting with the Warminster Supervisors that the Hart school is still worth $1M. As a community we need to be involved with the development of these properties to ensure they blend into our existing communities. I do not want to see town homes in a neighborhood of split level and colonials. I also want to make sure they are required to address their storm water issues. Roberts floods in front of Longstreth. I can only imagine how taking away a large portion of the green space will impact that problem.
Tired of Hypocrisy April 11, 2012 at 09:01 PM
It would seem that the district is looking for a quick intake of cash flow to cover cost over-runs of the high school and elementary schools. The district knows that the taxpayers are well aware of their mistakes concerning rebuilding & consolidation of the schools and are fed up. The purchase price is ridiculous whether grading needs to be done, tear downs, etc., all reputable builders know that coming into buying previously occupied buildings. The price is not fair market value and should be investigated as to why the builder secured the buildings/land at the price they did. The sale price will also reflect on home values surrounding the buildings. It may take years for those values to regain previous levels.
Steve A April 12, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Everyone is forgetting that selling to a residential builder means more families with children that need to go to Centennial schools, which more than cancels out the benefit of putting these properties back on the tax rolls. It would be better for the bottom line to try to find buyers who would use the buildings, like a charter school, private school or religious institution. These types of buyers would also pay more for the buildings.
Pete Krenshaw April 12, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Steve A - I agree with you in regard to the irony of building houses in place of schools thereby creating a potential need for more classrooms. Hopefully this was accounted for in the design of the consolidated schools but with this district who knows... Unfortunately (maybe fortunately) Warminster Township rezoned all the properties with schools in the Township which were previously zoned Institutional to match whatever the neighboring residential zoning was. So if the neighboring properties are single family detached dwellings (most likely the case) then that is what the school property is zoned for. Otherwise with the Institutional Zoning District, charter schools, prisons, hospitals and mental health (institutions) would have been allowed right next to a "family friendly" neighborhood. I have no idea how Upper Southampton has the Stackpole property zoned but with County Builders as the potential buyer it seems likely they will build more houses to match the neighborhood as they would have to do in Warminster.
Pamela April 13, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Why is it we find out about this AFTER the fact? Isn't there a way for the community to demand an answer from the Board?
Sarah Ronzelli April 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I watched the video of the public meeting for the closing of Longstreth and Stackpole schools. Longstreth had no persons commenting on the closing of that school, Stackpole had two people who commented on closing of that school. I was shocked that no one showed up to speak about these schools.
Pete Krenshaw April 16, 2012 at 05:54 PM
You would think the administration and the school board would take notice of these type of comments. Don't they find it a little unnerving to hear that people are so disenfranchised, with feelings their voice will NEVER be heard, they are unwilling to be subjected to attending their meetings? Maybe this is all by design in order to keep their meetings running "smooth" and gives them the perception everyone believes they are doing a fantastic job. Perhaps this attitude and show of arrogance they have perfected should be changed before we as voters change it for them...
Nick Awp Sucic April 20, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Sounds like a inside deal
HONEST MOM April 20, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I think it's high time we wipe that school board clean and fill it with folks that are actually listening to what the community wants! Seems to me that they do what they want with no regard to how the taxpayers feel about their decisions. Selling properties so cheap, spending way more on construction that first stated, removing teachers and making class size larger, changing the times the kids attend school and the list goes on! No one asked me...did they ask you how you feel? NO!!!!! They do what they want and all of our taxes continue to rise! Now I realize countless hours are spent making decisions but I do think it's high time we vote those members off the board and start fresh with folks who care about the kids and the community! Yes I've been to the school board meetings where I've been given exactly 2 minutes to speak! Yes I've been told my time was up and nothing was resolved. Honestly I don't think speaking up at those meetings changes a thing! They do what they want ...when they want and how they want! Spending more money on new schools and overcrowding the already crowded buses is just another example of their profound disregard for the children. I'm ready for a change! I'm ready to see school board members who actually care about the community and the kids!
Emily Cohen April 20, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Thank you, Sarah. I think that people are missing the point. Also, it's funny to me that people are complaining about houses being built. While it will add to the student population (for which the new construction has allowed), it will be more than made up for with the increased tax base/tax income. The district is not, nor should it be, in the property management business.
Elmo peo April 21, 2012 at 03:55 AM
The whole school board should be fired! They are a bunch of crooks! Thats a disgrace!
Fox Mulder April 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I'd much rather spend my hard earned tax dollars watching the building sit there vacant, requiring the district to cut the grass and plow the snow. Who wants to see these properties return to the tax rolls? Not me, let's take the cost of holding onto the buildings right from the classroom. I mean really, why should they sell?
HONEST MOM April 22, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Did anyone ever think to poll the neighbors that back up to the properties if they would be interested in increasing the sizes of their back yards a little? I'm willing to bet most of them would much rather split the cost of each property rather than see all those new homes out their back windows and all that construction mess! At a cost of just over $400,000 for each school that would have only been about $10,000 each give or take a few thousand. Just a thought!
Joe Meditz April 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Joe Meditz In reference to Sarah Ronzelli's comment about no one attending the meetings. We moved here in 1970, across the street from Longstreth School, after being here a few years I started to attend meetings at the Township and School levels. We would make suggestions to the board or to the Township supervisors about different items and we basically got blown off we actually had a Township supervisor tell us that we didn't know what we wanted and they knew what was best for us. After a few years of this we gave up. My concern with new homes being built in place of Longstreh School is the water run off from the new development. Everytime we have a heavy rain storm the intersection of Marian Road and Roberts Road gets flooded with 3 feet of water. Why can't someone step up and make this an open space area. We are getting so boxed in in this township.
Ruth June 07, 2012 at 01:35 PM
The most recent adjustment showed an assumed revenue of $850,000 from the sales of the Dot Henry Satellite School to Ivyland Borough, Leary and Stackpole. If you break it down that is about 283,333 per school. In Ivyland Borough I have not seen a house go for that price, and if they tear it down it is in the historial part of town, you can not even cut a tree down without permission. And then it must be replaced with a new tree and they tell you the size that you must put there. Why buy there you can not build a new home there? Or did the borough change that for the sale as well....
longstreth neighbor June 11, 2012 at 03:02 AM
As a resident that backs up to longstreth school concern. As an older building being torn down is there any asbestos in the building that will filter into the air and coat your property hopefully the builder will take responsibility for that or the dust and dirt flying into the air will they take care of that also. what kind of homes are they building townhouses or match the rest of the community single family homes. Just what the community needs more homes in a saturated market. why not a community park for the kids that live in the area. Why not make this a more enjoyable community instead of more homes make it open space. but then again no resident's were ask. And i believe longstreth is on 17 acres and it was only sold for $400,000 why so low?.


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