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News Article
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Private School Board Meeting Info Not Shared Publicly
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            In late November a majority of the Upper Perkiomen School Board members, along with three incoming members, watched a presentation of construction progress at the site of the new middle school in Upper Hanover.

            Six days later, the reorganized school board cancelled a similar presentation for the public on December 4. The members voted 5-4 to terminate the project during the same meeting.

            The November 28 presentation, which documented the work completed by construction crews at the site on Montgomery Avenue through November 30, included estimated costs totaling $7.843 million and provided direction on how to stabilize the property if work is halted for at least four days.

            The attendees did not receive any documentation supporting the cost estimates, according to Member Raeann Hofkin.

            However, a project suspension summary form from the meeting identified a cost to the district as $2.396 million. According to the document, Boro Construction would be paid an additional $1.616 million for its work as the general contractor. That includes $1.065 million subcontracting costs, $385,784 for site stabilization and re mobilization, $145,000 for project management costs and $19,900 for material costs.

            The company would receive an additional $430,000 as the project's mechanical contractor, including $200,000 for major equipment, $90,000 for material costs, $80,000 for subcontracting costs and $10,000 for project management costs.

            Albarrell Electric, the electric contractor, would be paid $139,095 for material costs, $48,974 for project management costs, and $12,030 for subcontracting costs.

            Data for Frey Lutz, the plumbing contractor, was identified as TBD.

            All seated and newly elected board members were invited to an information session on the progress of the middle school and the implications of pausing construction, according to Superintendent Alexis McGloin.

            Members Jonathan Warren, Mike Elliot, Willard Pike and Dr. John Farris confirmed their attendance at the meeting, which started at 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon at the district's education center. Hofkin and John Gehman participated by telephone. According to Hofkin, Melanie Cunningham Steve Cunningham and James Glackin – who captured seats on the board earlier in the month – also attended.

            The meeting lasted at least 75 minutes, according to another person familiar with the situation.

            Melanie Cunningham also confirmed her attendance, but declined to divulge any details. "I was at the meeting, but I don't really think I can talk about it," she wrote in a December 8 email message. "Being a new board member, I'm not sure what my boundaries are yet..."

            Several of the district's contracted professionals, including architect Robert Breslin and construction manager Arif Azil, spoke at the meeting, according to a December 7 email from McGloin.

            According to Hofkin, the attendees questioned Breslin and Azil. McGloin and Solicitor Ken Roos claimed no deliberations took place during the gathering.

            "Since no deliberations took place, it was not an executive session or otherwise meet the definition of a meeting under the Sunshine Act," Roos wrote in a December 7 email message.

            However, Melissa Melewsky, a media law council with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, offered a different legal opinion. According to Melewsky, the members may have run afoul of the Sunshine Act by meeting in a private quorum and interacting with the presenters. She argued that once the board members begin interacting with the presenters, asking questions, applying answers to potential policy decisions, and other discussions of agency business, they may have crossed the line into deliberation under the Act.  "It's better for this kind of discussion to occur at a public meeting," she said. "The letter and intent of the law requires agencies to err on the side of openness, and there doesn't appear to be any reason this discussion required confidentiality."

            The 32-page presentation, from Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects and D'Huy Architects, Inc., features multiple color photos of the site and detailed descriptions of the completed work.

            The document, currently being circulated on social media, shows that crews have completed and stabilized a sediment basin with a permanent outflow structure, temporary skimmer and baffle wall. It also displays a photo of the permanent spill-way formed, complete with reinforcing steel and 90 percent of the inlets and manholes, and underground storm water piping has been completed.

            Another picture displays the completed storm water inlets which had been tied into the permanent structures on west side of the site. Additional photos and illustrations state that the electronic service is being installed, 90 percent of the incoming water service has been completed, the construction of the incoming electrical service is underway and that the initial two phases of the building pad are complete, according to pages 15 and 16 of the presentation.

            The implementation of the concrete footers and foundations for the three story classroom wing has begun, according to the presentation.

            Reinforcing steel for 80 percent of the building has been fabricated and billed. Insurance and bonds have been billed 100 percent. Structural steel is 50 percent fabricated and billed for the three-story classroom wing, administration wing and athletic commons area, insurance and bonds have been billed 100 percent, all major equipment has been purchased, the ATC subcontractor has started the engineering and design of the control systems and the layout and coordination of the duct shop drawings as well as the BIM coordination process is underway, according to multiple slides titled Costs Billed Through November.

            In terms of offsite activities, structural steel was scheduled for delivery the week of December 4, placement of sleeves for plumbing utilities through the concrete footings was underway and procurement of underground plumbing materials was underway.

            The decision to cancel a similar presentation for the December 4 public meeting was made over the weekend without her input, according to Hokfin.  "(The other members) did their own research," she wrote. "I wasn't even in town from November 29 to December 3. I was in Texas for work."

            After the board created a new meeting agenda, Hofkin stated that she told Azil, who was in the audience, that the presentation "wouldn't be shared and he could go home."






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