Geisinger offers land donation for W-B Area high school

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE — The Wilkes-Barre Area School Board unveiled new estimates for a consolidated high school to be built at one of several possible sites, including one near Geisinger Wyoming Valley on land Geisinger has offered to donate to the school district.

The district design team — four firms contracted to work on the high school — presented information on one site previously considered and five reviewed after the initial plan was scrapped. The board had voted to build on the site where Coughlin High School stands, but the Wilkes-Barre City zoning board denied a needed zoning variance.

Two of the six sites were rejected because of site preparation difficulties. The four remaining, and cost estimates:

•The Geisinger site, on the west side of East Mountain Boulevard, which would not require land purchase but would require other preparation work, estimated total cost at $110 million to $135 million.

• A site near Kmart in Wilkes-Barre Township, on the east side of Interstate 81 near the Blackman Street exit, $108 million to $130 million.

•A site near East Mountain Boulevard, on the left side of Route 115 heading toward Bear Creek, $104 million to $127 million.

• The original “Pagnotti site” in Plains Township near the Solomon Plains Memorial Education complex, considered in the earlier review of possible sites, $101 million to $118 million.

The board plans to hold a meeting May 3 at 6 p.m. at the Solomon Plains center to vote on which site to review more closely. Sites that have been undermined for coal would require additional work to comply with “Act 17,” meaning bore holes and other actions to assure the site is safe. Three sites would require that extra work: Geisinger, the site near Kmart and the original Pagnotti site.

Only the Pagnotti site is guaranteed to get state reimbursement money — estimated at 20 percent of total cost, Patrick Endler of Borton Lawson Architecture and Engineering said.

Endler also said PennDOT would require a Highway Occupancy permit for the original Pagnotti site. That site also has previous issues with ash placed under a cap of soil, work done under the supervision of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Endler said plans already drawn up for the Coughlin site could be used at any of the other sites with modifications.

District Solicitor Ray Wendolowski said the cost for the original Pagnotti site has gone down since it was first considered thanks to negotiations with the owner.

Posted 1:17 p.m.

Geisinger Health has offered to donate about 55 acres of land as a site for a new Wilkes-Barre Area High$104 mi School, District Superintendent Brian Costello announced.

Costello sent out an email announcing the offer from Geisinger, saying the donation does not automatically mean the district will accept the land or build a school on it.

“While there is no purchase price for the Geisinger land, it would require investment to prepare the site and ensure safe traffic patterns,” Costello wrote in the email. “We are looking into these costs closely, as we are with the costs related to our other potential sites.

“You can be assured that the school board and district will make the final site selection based on what is best for our students, as well as the taxpayers.’

The School Board voted to build a consolidated high school that would house grades 9-12 from Meyers and Coughlin high schools. After considering multiple sites the board voted to build where Coughlin stands now, but the Wilkes-Barre City Zoning Hearing Board denied a request for a needed zoning variance.

The board began reviewing possible sites, adding three in Plains Township to the list of those already on the table. One of those is on the west side of East Mountain Boulevard, across from Geisinger Wyoming Valley. Records show that property is owned by Geisinger.

The School Board has a special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight followed by an informational meeting at 6 p.m. to update the public on the review of possible high school sites.

Both are being held in the auditorium at GAR Memorial High School.

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish