Palmerton wants to change district engineer
Frustration with its engineering firm of record has boiled over in Palmerton Area School District.
Though official action won’t take place for two weeks, school board directors indicated during a workshop Tuesday night that the district will send out a request for proposals for a firm to replace Barry Isett and Associates.
Barry Isett has done the district’s engineering work for a number of years, but discussion on the change of firms surfaced as a recent junior high school addition closes out and several more building projects, namely a revamped S.S. Palmer Elementary entrance, a high school music room renovation and a Towamensing Elementary fuel tank replacement are on the horizon.
At May’s board meeting, Palmerton approved nearly $144,000 in change orders related to its junior high school addition. While the money was budgeted for as contingency funds, several directors weren’t happy with how Barry Isett’s representative, Tim Sisock, handled the process.
“I thought he was condescending and not very polite in explaining the change orders,” director Kathy Fallow said. “I don’t think it will hurt to go out for proposals.”
If the district makes a change, it would not impact any projects Barry Isett is currently working on for the district. For example, last month the district approved a $459,000 bid from CMG of Easton to complete a flooring and painting project at the high school.
“Collecting proposals from other firms is just getting a price list,” board President Kate Baumgardt said. “We’re not casting anyone aside.”
The possible change of engineering firms has put a pause on certain projects. In March, KCBA Architects presented Palmerton’s board with several options to increase security at the S.S. Palmer Elementary, highlighted by moving the administrative offices and nurse’s suite to the ground floor of the building, just off to the left inside the main entrance. With the move, visitors would be buzzed in to the main entrance, off Third Street, and be let in to a secured area.
“Until we decide what engineer and architect we’re going with for the project, they can’t go to the building and ask people for ideas and what they would like to see there, director Barry Scherer said. “We can’t just continue moving forward if we don’t trust Barry Isett.”
Fellow board member Josh Smale concurred, saying as much as he would like to see the Palmer entrance and high school music room renovations go forward, they need to be held off until a decision is made on the engineer.
When the district decides on a firm, one of the other projects on its plate will be a fuel tank replacement at Towamensing Elementary. The current tank, located below ground behind the building, is over 30 years old and district officials said there is no way to dig to it to test its stability. The fuel is used for heating and hot water in the building.
According to Scherer, director of facilities Joe Faenza has recommended installing a new aboveground, double-walled tank with spill containment.
The current tank sits close to Towamensing’s drinking water well.
“A leak of any kind would be devastating,” acting Superintendent Thomas McLaughlin said.
The estimate for the replacement tank and removal of the old one is between $200,000 and $250,000. District officials said the money could come out of the capital reserve budget.