In an effort to generate some sorely needed revenue, the Upper Perkiomen School District has decided to rent out two large spaces in its education center in Upper Hanover.
The education center at 2229 E. Buck Road, built around the former Embassy Skating Rink, was purchased for $2.3 million in April 2006. The district renovated the space on 13 acres and used it for administration and tax offices, meeting rooms, storage and rented out the former skating rink to community groups for a fee.
In Dec. 2005 administrators said plans for the property were also to include a kindergarten center, but those plans were never realized as the district’s student population decreased or remained stable to date.
The 11,938-square-foot skating rink is empty most days. It is used sporadically by Valley Soccer, Quakertown Soccer, Upper Perk field hockey and an area church youth group. The district tax office space is no longer needed because the state passed legislation to regionalize earned income tax collection. Berkheimer took over that function in July 2011.
And in an effort to balance their budget and keep taxes as low as possible, administrators said renting out the space was a no-brainer for bringing in income.
At their Nov. 10 meeting, the Upper Perkiomen school board voted to enter into a contract with realtor Brode and Brooks Inc., of Pennsburg, to find lessees for the two spaces.
The skating rink would be rented out at $3,000 per month, excluding heat and electric, and the tax offices, approximately 1,360 square feet, would be $1,361 monthly, including taxes, insurance and utilities. Neither rental agreement would include janitorial services.
Brode and Brooks will charge the district a 6 percent broker’s fee monthly during any lease and will pay for all marketing expenses.
The only amendment to the contract board members requested was the addition of listing the properties on a multiple listing service, to economic development agencies or to other brokers or potential buyers.
Director Rob Pepe noted he thought it would be valuable to have the properties listed on Loopnet and Trend, a multi-listing service, to recruit potential lessees.
The board voted unanimously to accept the contract with Pepe abstaining due to a potential conflict of interest with the realtor.
The board also voted to extend the employment of District Superintendent Dr. Tim Kirby until March 10, 2012. Kirby announced his retirement this summer, effective Jan. 2, 2012, but said at the meeting he was asked to stay longer with the district.
District administrators later confirmed it was at the school board’s request.
The district voted in September to spend up to $15,000 to enter into a contract with superintendent search consultant Dr. William Leary to find Kirby’s replacement. According to Board President Harry Quinque in previous months, the board said that the tight time frame would not affect the hiring. Instead, he said, finding the right candidate would be paramount and the board could rely on current administrators in the interim.
So the decision to extend Kirby’s contract two more months was questioned by Pepe and Director Margie Gehlhaus.
Pepe said he didn’t understand why Kirby was asked to stay longer, given the previous sentiments of the board, and Gehlhaus agreed. Pepe voted to abstain from the vote and Gehlhaus voted against the extension. Kirby was granted seven vacation days, for a February vacation he previously scheduled, but will not receive any additional vacation time or compensation according to the agreement.
The motion passed 6-1.
School board directors Dr. George Bonekemper, Mary Young, Quinque and Bill Scott were recognized by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) for their years of service to the district. Bonekemper and Young will be leaving the board in December. Raeann Hofkin and Catherine Fenley were elected to fill their seats.
To Bonekemper, who served 12 years, Kirby said, “You can never fault George for his commitment and perseverance to education…Dr. Bonekemper, I want to thank you, more importantly, for the children of this community.”
Upper Perkiomen Middle School teacher Sean McBain echoed Kirby’s sentiments and thanked Bonekemper on a personal and professional level during the public comment period. Administrators noted Bonekemper, whom they referred to as the district historian, served the district tirelessly on many levels through the years.
“To me Mrs. Young is a voice for education; someone who is always asking the difficult questions. Searching for accountability. She’s altruistic by nature and idealistic in a good way. The school board will really miss you,” Kirby said of Mary Young. She served eight years on the board.
Scott, who was elected with both directors in 2003, said he learned more from Bonekemper and Young than he learned the first 40 years of his life. He said both were individuals he respected and cherished and would literally give the shirt off his back for.
Scott then went on to take his shirt off, revealing two old campaign shirts, and gave one to Bonekemper and one to Young.