November 26, 2013 —
WESTFALL, PA — Delaware Valley School District officials on November 21 were hoping the third time would be the charm, as they approved the $1.35 million purchase of some 50 acres of land in Matamoras Borough. Closing the deal was made contingent upon the property meeting all the needed permitting and construction requirements.
The land, part of a 64-acre parcel owned by Ellen P. Wiese, includes the eastern-most tip of the commonwealth, where the Delaware makes its southwesterly turn, and is just upstream from the confluence of the Neversink River.
Superintendent John Bell said that the district’s existing design for the new school will fit on the property without changes and the site is big enough for future expansion should that be needed.
Bell said the new building, with an originally estimated cost of $23 million, is a better buy than the $16 million estimate for updating the existing elementary school.
The new school would require only eight buses daily to serve the site and its insertion into the borough should provide new economic activity for Matamoras, Bell said.
The land was not available when the district sought sites in recent years. Board president Pam Lufty was credited for her efforts in making the land available.
Board member-elect John “Jack” O’Leary, a Matamoras resident and former site opponent, was pleased. “It’s a beautiful school. If the [test] numbers are good, it’s a win-win.”
Milford Mayor “Bo” Fean apologized to any board member who may have been offended by his site opposition. “It was never about people or the board,” he said.
Board member-elect John “Jack” Fisher attended the meeting, but did not comment on the land purchase.
The board vote was a unanimous 8-0, with outgoing member Bob Goldsack unable to attend his last meeting as a board member.
Board member John Wroblewski counseled caution, saying tests still have to be done and “any number of things could make the property unusable; but there is no reason to believe that will happen.”
The purchase could end the long controversy over efforts to replace the district’s oldest school, the 57-year-old Delaware Valley Elementary School.
Their first effort was the $7 million purchase of the 121-acre Santos Farm property on the three-lane portion of Rt. 209 near Milford on September of 2006. That purchase was abandoned in March of the following year when engineering studies found only a small portion of the property was applicable for construction and it contained several Native American archaeological sites.
Next in 2011 came the $1.9 million purchase of a nearby 40+ acre building tract from Joseph Biondo and CBH Holdings. It had no archaeological problems, but the impending expansion of a major natural gas transmission line which crossed the property created safety concerns for many residents and permitting problems that appeared insoluble.
The district still owns this property and amid the positive comments about the new purchase decision, Wroblewski said safety was not his concern with the Biondo property. He said he still would consider it as an alternative if problems arise with the Matamoras site and permitting issues could be resolved.