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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Community rallies to find new uses

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  • PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - A wide range of ideas were presented for the long-closed Paupack School during a brainstorming public meeting held July 29th. Out of this, the nucleus of a committee was formed, with immediate plans to seek estimates on the cost to fix up the landmark on Route 507, and to send a letter to Palmyra Township- Pike residents.
       Wallenpaupack Historical Society (WHS) hosted the meeting at the Township Municipal Building. Audrey Graybill, WHS trustee and coordinator of the effort to find new uses for the school, said that the Society's interest was to see the school building's preservation.
    ••• Paid for its upkeep
        A round of applause was heard for the Township Board of Supervisors, who over the years have spent approximately $250,000 to stabilize and protect the structure.
       Paupack Consolidated School first opened in 1925 in response to the loss of two one-room schools removed when Lake Wallenpaupack was created. The school remained in use until 1988. Wallenpaupack Area School District used it for storage until it was sold to the Township in 2000. The Township holds a $100,000 zero-interest mortgage on the property; half of that has been paid; payments total $5,000 a year.
       About $18,000 was spent on a new roof, $17,000 for the septic, $800 a year for insurance and $185,000 on the parking lot. The parking area was improved when a non-profit day care center had serious interest in leasing the building, said Board Chairman Tom Simons. Masonry work to the chimney and drainage work has been done.
       To bring the facility up to code, however, handicapped-accessible restrooms and a ramp are needed as well as back entrance steps.     
       Jon Tandy, WHS Trustee, led the discussion and wrote down the many assorted suggestions for the school, gradually taping several large sheets of paper to the wall. There were four main considerations, he said, including what or who would use the school; suggested activities; funding and who would manage the activities.
    ••• Many ideas
       Suggested uses included: scouting; Penn State Extension programs; social agency meeting space; a latch-key after-school program; live theater; space for the Paupack Methodist Church food pantry; a community garden; a farmer's market; an urgent care facility; physical rehabilitation; dancing; a second township polling station; craft or antique shows and dog or cat events.
       Rick and Jacci West emphasized the desirability of making space for scouting programs. Jacci said that having room for storage would help in encouraging more adults to volunteer as scout leaders.
       Bernadine Lennon envisioned making a place for YMCA or Wayne Memorial Hospital programs, or the Area Agency on Aging.
       Another idea Lennon raised was a community library reading room.
    Page 2 of 3 -     Several of the ideas were suitable for a community center. Graybill, whose mother taught at the Paupack School many years, noted that the school doubled as a community center after school hours.
         Graybill suggested that the way the parking lot is configured, it would be an excellent site for a chicken barbecue drive-through.
       Bruce Taylor, a WHS trustee, said that part of the school could be used to display and keep artifacts. Some items from the old school could be exhibited.
       Tandy explained that while the WHS board has no clear consensus on the fate of their Williams House museum property further down 507, WHS is not decided on whether they want to occupy the school. The WHS held the meeting, Graybill said, to learn community opinions and find people with the expertise to pursue the next uses for the school.
    ••• Paying for it
        "We filled the building many times," Taylor observed. "Who will manage it?" He suggested that a coordinator, paid from a grant, could oversee the facility.
        Dual use of the structure was discussed; half could be used by a rent-paying tenant, and the rest for a non-profit organization. Suggested ideas for a tenant was a legislator's office or some other professional.
       Seeking out local community foundation grants and online fundraising sites were recommended.
       Pete Helms, who is the owner and president of Davis R. Chant Realtors, advised that perhaps the Township would be glad to have a new entity take responsibility for the school. The building must be brought up to standards.
       "It is a shame to see it just sit there," Helms said.
       Lennon said that as taxpayers, they have invested enough in paying for the building's upkeep, and advised once they have a clear idea of proposed uses and how they will manage it, then the Township can be asked for the building.
       Township Chairman Simons said that there once were serious discussions about having a branch of the Pike County Public Library there, and also a day care. A church also looked at the site. The School District had placed restrictions on its uses at first but they are more relaxed now, he said. The Township had tried to sell the property.
       "The Township can't afford to put a lot [more] in it without some direction," Simons said. "We want ideas."
    ••• Get estimates, send letter
        Tom Kennedy urged getting estimates to do the work needed to bring the school up to code. The Township had heard a $200,000 quote as long as 10 years ago from the party that wanted a day care facility. What was included in that figure was not known.
    Page 3 of 3 -    Dick Briden offered to get some contractor estimates in time for the next meeting.
       Helms urged that a well-written letter be sent out to Township residents, asking for ideas and if they would be willing to donate funds.  He suggested having four or five people well-known in the township sign the letter. He offered to be one of them, and would consider donating the mailing cost.
       Several people attending either went to the Paupack School as a child or their family members did.
       Jacci West suggested having some of their thoughts written down for the letter.
      Brian Mathews suggested having a meeting at the Paupack School so that they could better see what was available and needed. The idea was well received. Graybill advised once their committee is better organized, that they visit the school.
       The next meeting, which involves the committee that is forming as well as any other interested persons, is set for the Township Municipal Building on Wednesday, August 20th, at 7 p.m.

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