Dual committee meeting leads to further discussion concerning new PAHS weight room

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A joint meeting of the Punxsutawney Area School Board's Building and Maintenance and Athletic committees was held Tuesday, and expansion of the weight room at Punxsutawney Area High School into what has been a maintenance garage was discussed.

Jim Baun, chair of Building and Maintenance, said that the Punxsutawney Booster Club was willing to pay to expand and upgrade the present weight room facility. Bill Vasallo, PAHS athletic director, said his understanding was that the Booster Club was willing to donate the funds to pay for the weight room upgrade.

Dave London, PAHS principal, asked if the Boosters should take on the responsibility for the modifications that will have to be done, such as removing the garage door and installing a wall, a regular door and possibly a heat exchanger, in the expanded facility.

London said he didn't think the Boosters should oversee modifications to the school district's building, flooring and equipment.

Keith Wolfe, district superintendent, said the board does not know exactly what is required in the building process once students begin using the space that was previously just a garage.

"Will the inspectors say that additional heating work needs to be done in there, or are the large blower heaters permitted?" Wolfe said, adding that these are the particulars the board needs to know before proceeding with the project.

Penny Pifer, chair for the Athletic Committee, said that the committee originally also wanted to replace the trailer at the football field with a more-permanent storage facility and a new maintenance garage.

Pifer said she believes the school district should pay for the improvements to its facilities, and the Boosters should purchase equipment for the students.

"We need a study done, so the board knows exactly what needs to be done according to code," she said.

Gary Conrad, School Board president, said the discussion regarding these projects have been ongoing for six months.

"We've been discussing this for six meetings, and we still don't know who is willing to pay for what," Conrad said, adding that the question as to whether or not the Booster Club is willing to fund the weight room project 100 percent remains.

Wolfe said there are too many "what ifs?"

"We need to know what is required by the building and school codes in that space," he said.

Susan H. Robertson, district business manager, said the district needs to have a detailed list of what is required for the project.

Baun said he has access to architects and engineers, who he could possibly approach about the project.

"If we come up with a floor plan, all the engineer would have to do is approve it; they don't have to draw it up," he said.

Conrad asked who is paying the bill, and what the district would have to kick in for the project.

Wolfe said the board has to have a general idea of what the project is going to cost before proceeding.

Roberta Dinsmore, committee member, said the first thing that needs to be done is getting rid of the junk in the garage, and the athletic department should plan its dream weight room.

Phil Heitzenrater, district maintenance supervisor, said the requirements change drastically once you put students into a space that used to be a garage.

"The lighting requirements could be completely different and will more than likely change," Heitzenrater said.

London said the feasibility study that was done was for a large project with concession stands and restrooms at the stadium, including a storage facility.

Wolfe said that currently, there's no Plancon projects being funded through PDE.

"Their approval may not be necessary if we use district money only," he said.

Robertson said the district has to have its ducks in a row if the project is over $50,000, which would require PDE approval.

Jack White, committee member, added architects draw things, and engineers design things.

Vassallo said a representative from Webster Fitness in Pittsburgh estimated the cost for a state-of-the art weight facility at $125,000 and drew up a floor plan for the new weight room, which might be enough to get the project approved.

London said the Boosters don't want to spend the entire amount they have available on a weight room. Rather, they wants the funds used for the students to improve the community.

Following the joint committee meeting, the Athletic Committee met, and London said it was agreed upon by both groups that the committees should see to it that the garage is cleaned out, and whatever can be auctioned off should be. Then, he said the weight room could expand into that space.

"Bill and I will attend the Booster Club's meeting Monday to see how much they are willing to spend on the weight room," London said.

The Building and Maintenance Committee and the district will pay to construct the new maintenance building, London said, adding that Baun was going to talk with his friend from Structures, if he would come over and look at the garage space and estimate what it might cost to renovate it into a weight room.

Vassallo said he was at Cameron County High School Tuesday night and saw its weight room.

"For a (Class) A facility, it put our weight room to shame," Vassallo said, adding that for a AAA facility, the Punxsy high school's weight room is one of the worst in the state.

"If we do these renovations, it would bring it up to state-of-the art, and it would be one of the best in the state," Vassallo said.