Tuesday, December 11, 2018


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Middle School Project Revived
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

Glackin's vote restarts construction on Montgomery Avenue


            The new Upper Perkiomen Middle School project is back on after a newly elected board member did an about-face Tuesday, reversing efforts to terminate construction contracts.

            James Glackin, one of three members elected to the board in November, cast three pivotal votes during the special meeting to rescind the board's December 4 motion to stop the $55.896 million project.

            After the contentious meeting, a small crowd of mostly women gathered in front of Glackin's seat on the Upper Perkiomen School Board offering handshakes of appreciation. The new school board member reciprocated the gestures, but politely declined their verbal gratitude.  "No need thank me," he said.

            As a middle aged man with a white puffy beard approached the table, Glackin pulled back his right hand as the man stopped short.  "I voted for you, but I'm upset with you," the man said.  "I understand," Glackin said.

            One of three newly elected board members who ran on a platform opposing the project, Glackin explained why he cast the key vote during Tuesday's special meeting to revive the construction of a new middle school on Montgomery Avenue in Upper Hanover.

            He said the money already spent on the new school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders – estimated at approximately $10.2 million – "crossed a line" in his mind. Glackin said it would not make sense to "throw that money away" by abandoning the construction.

            "I called my own attorney and did my own research," Glackin told his constituent. "The money already spent on this project has gone well beyond my line."

            Superintendent Alexis McGloin expressed hope that the school would be ready for the start of the 2019-2020 school year as originally planned.

            Solicitor Ken Roos said near the end of the meeting that district officials would contact the four main contractors Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning and direct them to resume the contract. The announcement brought the pro-middle school crowd to its feet, drawing applause.

            During the three-hour meeting – in front of an overflow crowd at the district's Education Center – Glackin cast the pivotal vote to reject Raeann Hofkin's amendment directing the administration to send termination letters to the project's four main contractors. Then, he supported Vice President Mike Elliot's motion to reverse the motion terminating the project. Drake, Hofkin, Steve Cunningham and Melanie Cunningham rejected the motions to revive the project.

            Immediately after that vote, Glackin and Steve Cunningham, who also won election last fall on an anti-middle school campaign, voted against President Kerry Drake's motion to pause the project for 120 days. That motion failed 6-3.

            Even though Glackin, Drake, Hofkin, Steve Cunningham and Melanie Cunningham voted on December 4 for the motion to terminate the project, it was not officially terminated, according to Roos. He explained that the language advised the administration to direct the contractors to stop all work and make sure no orders were made, not to terminate the contracts.

            However, the official action taken by the school board on December 4 specifically directs the administration to terminate the project. During that meeting, Roos advised the board to clarify the language to amend the motion, and to replace "the words dealing with suspension with termination" so that the administration would be able to ensure the project is "permanently and correctly terminated."

            "The motion to amend that has been made would terminate the project completely, that's correct," Roos said in response to a question by board member Joan Smith about the scope of what the motion would mean.

            On Tuesday, before the vote to reverse course on the project, members heard a presentation from Arif Azil, the project manager, on temporary stabilization measures taken at the property near the Upper Perkiomen High School. Azil detailed the completed work, which included a majority of storm water basins in place and a functioning spillway, storm piping and electronic conduits stored in underground concrete and the sprouting of walls along one corner of the property.

            During multiple rounds of public comment, several audience members asked the board to reconsider its decision to cancel the project. Doug Butler, of East Greenville, said it was too late to change course on building the school.  "Who wants a million dollar hole?" Butler asked rhetorically.

            Prior to the vote on Drake's motion, East Greenville Mayor Ryan Sloyer told the members their only option was to move forward with the school. "Get off the campaign and start serving the public," Sloyer said. "I was against the middle school initially. But wasting $10 million is not acting fiscally responsible."

            The board reconstituted its facilities committee. Mike Elliot, the lone holdover from the previous session, will remain. Drake appointed Hofkin and Melanie Cunningham to the committee. The council president designated Cunningham as the committee chair.

            After the meeting, Drake stated that the board held an informational meeting, and an executive session on legal matters, on Thursday, December 14.





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