PLAINS TWP. — The answers: Wolfpack, black and Carolina blue, and $137 million.
The questions: What will the new name of athletic teams be next year when Wilkes-Barre Area merges teams from three schools? What will their colors be? And what’s the maximum cost of the new consolidated school expected to be open in a few years?
Board member Denise Thomas moved to adopt Wolfpack as the new mascot for the merged teams, and to adopt black and Carolina blue (think the NFL’s Carolina Panthers) as the colors. She said Wolf was the No. 1 suggestion among students for a mascot, and black was the top color choice for teams.
Blue is in the colors of all three high schools, and Superintendent Brian Costello said different shades of blue were close to black in total student recommendations. He said they opted for Carolina blue to avoid using any of the traditional shades the three schools use.
Meanwhile, the school board voted unanimously Thursday to officially set the upper limit of spending on the new school — to house students from Coughlin, Meyers and GAR Memorial — at $137.3 million.
As part of the state law known as Act 34 of 1973, the district must give a firm maximum to be spent on the entire project and on the building itself. The board must also set a public meeting for comment on the plan, and make materials related to the plan available to the public prior to that meeting.
The resolution set the “maximum building construction cost” at $103.6 million, and the “maximum project cost” at the higher number, which includes cost for site preparation, utility hook-ups, financing costs such as paying for bond counsel, and off-site costs for work required by PennDOT and other outside agencies. PennDOT has told the district it must do work on the nearby Cross Valley Expressway and some intersections at major arteries that approach the school, particularly Main Street.
Oct. 29 hearing
The resolution also set the public hearing for Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Solomon/Plains Education Complex on Abbot Street in Plains Township. Residents can submit a written request by Oct. 26 to speak at the meeting for up to three minutes. Written comments can also be submitted.
Solicitor Ray Wendolowski said the goal is to to keep costs lower than the resolution amounts. But if bids come in higher than that, the board has to change plans or start new paperwork with the state.
Business Manager Tom Telesz said the total debt will add about $3.5 million to $4 million to an existing annual debt payment of about $5 million, bringing total annual debt payments to about $9 million. That existing debt — relatively low for a district the size of Wilkes-Barre Area with about 7,000 students — will be paid off within the next five years. After that, the amount being paid on the new borrowing for the school will be increased by $5 million, keeping annual debt payment at around $9 million for decades.
Costello noted there will still be money available for other capital projects, and the district is looking for outside money to keep spending down. Telesz said savings made in recent years by the board and administration coupled with savings expected from consolidation should help reduce tax hikes. The district is also expecting at least a 10 percent reimbursement of the total cost from the state.
Genesis of Wolfpack
The new mascot was not on the agenda, but Costello’s Twitter feed offered a hint, then a giveaway during the day. Costello said Wednesday that students had been surveyed and results were being tallied.
His Twitter account in the morning began with a brief message printed in white on a black screen: “Stay tuned.”
That was followed a few hours later with a short phrase in the same format saying “There is an awakening,” and the audio clip of the same saying apparently from the movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
A few hours after that, the written message was “#wolfpack.”
Costello said the administration decided on Wolfpack rather than Wolves based on a student’s suggestion a while ago. Costello said the student explained the merger was like individuals coming together in a pack, and when Wolves proved popular in the survey the next step just seemed natural.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish