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WB applying for $500,000 grant

By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer ALLPORT – Last night, the West Branch School Board approved the district’s application toward obtaining a $500,000 grant.
funds would go toward a biomass boiler project, and the grant would be
through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. Board member Mel
Smeal asked if the district received the grant, would it mean it would
have to go through with the project? Superintendent Michelle Dutrow said
the board could reject the application process beforehand. But once it
is formally approved and if the district does receive the funding,
Dutrow suggested they move forward with the project.

considerable time and effort being devoted to prepare this application,
to seek letters of support from outside agencies and local legislators,”
said Dutrow.

Dutrow said the administration is only recommending
this project because the district’s energy consultation company McClure
Company said there would be “guaranteed energy savings” should the
project be completed.

“The guaranteed energy savings will allow us to
pay off the financing in approximately five to six years,” said Dutrow.
“Then, over the life cycle of the remaining 15 to 16 years, that
additional money can be used for other capital projects that the
district has previously explored and have put on the backburner until
funding became available.”

In order to house the biomass boiler, an
additional part would have to be added to the building to store the
biomass fuel. Dutrow also said there’s a number of local woodchip
suppliers in the area, and they’ve been working with the Department of
Environmental Protection on which sawmills they should purchase the
woodchips they’ll be burning.

Board member Robert Seprish asked what
the exact details of the project would be, and if the district would be
meeting with the McClure Company in the near future to discuss the
matter. Dutrow said the board could definitely meet with representatives
from McClure to learn about the project.

Dutrow also said the
district would need to submit the application by next week and would not
know until around October if they’ve had the funding awarded to them.

said the project “is a big deal” for those living around the school,
and commended the administration for looking for ways to cutting the
fuel bill.

“Our fuel bill is horrendous,” said Seprish. “We need to
do something. I don’t know if this is the right thing, but we’re going
to really have to get into the detail of this thing.”

Seprish worried
that by going to a biomass boiler, workforce would have to increase,
thus washing out any savings they’d collect. Dutrow said McClure assured
the district there would not have to be any extra positions created to
man the boiler.

Both Smeal and Seprish said they’d like to apply for
the grant. Dutrow said technically they could receive the funding and
the board could reject it. However, she cautioned that turning down a
substantial amount of funding from a government agency could give the
district a bad reputation in the future, and could hurt their future
chances on obtaining funds in a similar matter.

The board finally voted to approve the application by an 8-0 vote. Board member Don Yontosh was absent.
other news, Rebekah Holenchik gave the board results from her Saint
Francis University graduate research project, entitled Move To Learn.
The project researched kids from Kindergarten and found that having the
kids get up and move around throughout the day actually helped their
ability to learn.

Elementary Principal Mark Mitchell also said new
class lists should be posted on the front doors of the school starting
the week of Aug. 11.

The next meeting was originally scheduled to
take place on Sept. 22. However, the board voted to hold the next
meeting on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

The board approved numerous actions, including the following:
• a
leave of absence for high school English teacher Jessica Levonick from
Aug. 22 through Nov. 26 (with Mary Wisor filling in), and a leave of
absence for first grade teacher Sarah Lumadue from Aug. 22 to Oct. 13
(with Heather Brannon filling in).

• terminating the employment of Jarrod Hendricks, effective immediately.
• resignations of teachers Laura Mazer and Craig Jaquith.
• Brooke Martin as a fifth grade elementary teacher at a salary of $40,000.
• transferring
Secondary librarian Gerald White to secondary English teacher at the
start of the school year by a 6-2 vote. Voting against the transfer were
Smeal and Christina Brown.

• a donation of $3,500 from CNB Bank to
defray costs of the baseball and softball scoreboards. The district will
pay the remaining funds, which are around $5,800.


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