New School Board Members Sworn In / Pipeline Company Makes Presentation
By Rick Hiduk
Deborah Stethers was reelected by her peers to serve another term as president of the Wyalusing Area School Board during the Dec. 5 meeting held in the high school cafeteria. Newly-elected members, Jean Vande Mark and Barbara Prevost were sworn in by temporary board president Vincent Amoroso. Other highlights of the monthly meeting included a performance by members of the High Wire Choir, a string ensemble comprised of high school musicians and a presentation by associates of Inergy Midstream LLC concerning the installation of a natural gas pipeline adjacent to the school.
In an update on the new elementary school building, project manager John Waltman and district maintenance supervisor Bob Brigham shared concerns over an exhaust stack that apparently is not tall enough to prevent a backdraft of sometimes pungent fumes into some parts of the school, including the cafeteria, where the air handling units are also not quite keeping up with pressure lost to open doors and windows to the kitchen area.
Board members were clearly not satisfied with the notion that, because the building’s designers insist that the exhaust stack is the proper height, they will not modify the apparatus at their expense.
“Does that pose a hazard to our kids and staff?” Barb Hugo asked of Waltman, who could not provide an answer. “How do we resolve this issue? Is there an arbitration clause?”
Brigham suggested the recent switching of the heating system from oil to a biomass burner might reduce the problem, but he and Waltman seemed to be leaning toward a district-financed modification of the stack. Amoroso, who had been on the building committee, noted that representatives from the company that built the school will return for a walk-through in January, and the situation could be addressed face-to-face at that time.
In a review of the cafeteria report, board member Brian Zeidner related to district technologies coordinator Timothy Yale that some parents had expressed an interest in being able to check their children’s lunch accounts online, as well as being able to see what the youths were eating for lunch. Yale suggested that computer programs currently in place might allow for such a service, but it was not likely that it would be offered in the near future. Stethers added that some parents had indicated that they would like the option of adding money to the lunch accounts via the internet. Zeidner and fellow board member Chad Salsman acknowledged that the technology department is limited in staff and has a lot of responsibilities, but both agreed that a more interactive lunch account program could be made a priority and guaranteed some attention during the current school year.
District superintendent Chester Mummau asked the board to consider and approve the administration to secure cost estimates for a new fitness room that would be added on to the high school in the area of the old locker rooms.
“This is a need that has existed for quite awhile,” he explained. “It was put on the back burner because of the construction of the elementary school.”
District athletic director Brent Trowbridge added that students have to leave the building to access the current fitness center, which could later be converted for needed storage space once a new room is completed.
Hugo suggested amending the proposal to seeking quotes to be reviewed at the January board meeting but preventing administrators from making any decisions without consent from the board, after which the motion was approved unanimously.
Mummau welcomed three representatives from Inergy Midstream LLC, who answered questions about a construction project that will begin near the school in January to install a 39-mile segment of the MARC 1 pipeline that will transfer natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York State and vice versa as demand dictates as per Central New York Oil and Gas LLC. Company associate Maureen Walsh noted that there are already six Inergy Midstream employees in the Wyalusing area, readying for the construction project, which is still awaiting final permitting from Pennsylvania DEP.
The 30-inch pipe will come under the Homer property and pass the school to the east before plunging 90 feet under the Susquehanna River and continuing its stretch to the southeast. Board members asked construction manager Randy Parker about expected noise levels and potential traffic problems, as well as some other questions that had been previously addressed between administrators of the Wyalusing Area School District and Inergy Midstream as early as 2009.
Parker indicated that there would be a noticeable increase in traffic at the onset of the project, but the number of vehicles would decrease as they are put in place. The noise level would be maintained at 55 decibels or below and would likely only be detectable to people outside the school whenever crews find themselves driving pipe casing through solid bedrock. A fulltime environmental inspector will be on duty at all times and, if it is found that noise levels are breaching the prescribed limits, noise abatement measures can be taken to bring the decibel levels back into check. There will be no significant surface disturbance such as clear-cutting of trees, and a thicker steel casing will be used in proximity to the school campus.
“Once it is done, we’re out of the way,” said Walsh, who suggested that the project will take no more than three months to complete.
Acknowledging public concerns about the pipeline project, Mummau issued the following statements on behalf of the school district after the meeting: Though the school district had reservations about the proximity of the gas line to the school campus initially, it recognized the fact that the gas line is not on school property and recognized that the pipeline is part of the ever-evolving natural gas industry. Our school board is fully committed to student and staff safety. The board has full faith that the installation will be of the highest construction standards possible, that the environmental disturbances will be minimal, that the necessary inspections will be performed, and that Central New York Oil and Gas will communicate with the school district should there be any reason for concern or alarm.