EPI Cen­ter back­ers get more time to save build­ing

The Ambler Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Finarelli

Res­i­dents try­ing to save the East Ore­land EPI Cen­ter from the wreck­ing ball got a re­prieve from the Up­per Dublin Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Tues­day night.

A plan to raze the for­mer East Ore­land School at Twin­ing and Wis­chman roads, used for some parks and re­cre­ation pro­grams but in need of ma­jor main­te­nance work, was pre­sented at the board’s June meet­ing. The $400,000 pro­posal would re­place the build­ing with a park with play­ground, bas­ket­ball court, gath­er­ing area, mu­ral wall, pavilion, walk­ing trail and open space.

A group of res­i­dents, call­ing them­selves the Friends of Up­per Dublin EPI Cen­ter/ East Ore­land School­house, has mo­bi­lized to save the two older por­tions of the build­ing and put a park around it. In Septem­ber, the board told the group to come back with a plan in Oc­to­ber, but Tues­day night the res­i­dents asked for more time.

About 20 East Ore­land res­i­dents at­tended the Oct. 9 meet­ing, sev­eral of whom pro­vided a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion on the his­tory of

the school­house; past, cur­rent and pos­si­ble fu­ture uses; and the group’s ef­forts to save the build­ing to date.

“It’s re­ally an im­por­tant part of our community,” said Mandy Thomas, co­pres­i­dent of the East Ore­land keigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion, which spon­sors hol­i­day events at the fa­cil­ity.

The group is ap­ply­ing IRU 501(F)(3) nRnSUR­fiW sta­tus to raise money for the preser­va­tion of the 1909 and 1924 sec­tions of the build­ing, has cre­ated a board of that in­cludes var­i­ous pro­fes­sion­als, met with state Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-153, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-13, and plans to meet with Mont­gomery County Com­mis­sion­ers Chair­man Josh Shapiro, ac­cord­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion.

“We want to learn how to reach out to other en­ti­ties for fund­ing,” Peter Wine­brake said. “There has been a lot of ac­tiv­ity. It speaks to the level of com­mit­ment the peo­ple in East Ore­land are putting into this.”

The group would like to “cre­ate some sort of en­tity to form a part­ner­ship be­tween our community and the town­ship,” he said. “Why not give us one or two years” to do that?

“How about we give you the build­ing, with the caveat that in or­der to oc­cupy it you have to meet [town­ship] or­di­nances,” Com­mis­sioner Chett Derr said. “Our con­cern is if we moth­ball it and are still pay­ing a chunk of change, that mul­ti­plies, and then you need $900,000 to ren­o­vate.”

“That’s the type of thing wH PDy EH DEOH WR H[SORUH fivH WR sL[ PRnWhs IURP now, when we can eval­u­ate if we’re able to fundraise.” Wine­brake said.

Derr said he would be will­ing to hold off de­moOLWLRn “IRU D finLWH DPRunW of time,” but wanted to know if the group would con­trib­ute to the build­ing’s up­keep. He also sug­gested “it would have been bet­ter [to have this] di­a­logue two years ago.”

Wine­brake ac­knowl­edged a lot of res­i­dents “didn’t re­ally start to pay at­ten­tion un­til a cou­ple months ago,” but asked that the board fo­cus on “the level of se­ri­ous­ness and in­ter­est right now.”

“, WhLnN LW’s wRUWh H[WHnGLnJ IRU D finLWH WLPH WR flHsh sRPH RI WhRsH LGHDs out,” Com­mis­sioner Sharon Damsker said, but in WHUPs RI JHWWLnJ finDnFLDO help from the town­ship, shH WROG WhH JURuS “flR­RG­ing is­sues are at the top of our radar right now.”

The res­i­dent sug­gested the town­ship turn to the $30 mil­lion ap­proved bor­row­ing for open space funds and per­haps phase in ren­o­va­tions.

Board Pres­i­dent Ira Tackel said he was for giv­ing the group more time, but was con­cerned there were “dif­fer­ing opin­ions” among res­i­dents. Among op­tions, he said, are pri­va­tiz­ing the build­ing, which would pre­serve the his­tor­i­cal struc­ture but make it no longer avail­able for community use; raz­ing the build­ing and hav­ing a park; and the group’s idea to pre­serve the two parts and cre­ate a park around it.

Board mem­bers agreed to give the res­i­dents un­til May to come back with a plan for sav­ing the build­ing.

The board de­bated putWLnJ D SODFHhROGHU Ln nH[W year’s bud­get for the money to de­mol­ish the school, should that be the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion, but Tackel said the town­ship can bor­row from its own Community Rein­vest­ment Fund if nec­es­sary.

dar­den Road res­i­dent Michelle Bren­nan, an or­ga­nizer of the group, said af­ter the meet­ing, she was “thrilled with the out­come.”

“At least we’ll have a lit­tle more time to garner more sup­port and po­ten­tially save the build­ing,” she said. From now to May may not be enough time, she said, “but we will work with what we have.”

Po­lice con­tract The board unan­i­mously ap­proved a new con­tract with the town­ship’s po­lice depart­ment. The four-year agree­ment calls for per­cent­age salary in­creases of 3.5, 3.5, 3.5 and 3.75, re­spec­tively. It also in­cludes a de­ferred re­tire­ment op­er­a­tion plan, or DROP, whLFh DOORws Dn RI­fiFHU WR set re­tire­ment four years ahead and start ac­cu­mu­lat­ing pen­sion in a fund, which be­comes avail­able upon re­tire­ment.

In essence, DROP provLGHs RI­fiFHUs whR JLvH ad­vance notice of their re­tire­ment — they can’t change their mind — with IRuU H[WUD yHDUs RI SHn­sLRn EHnH­fiWs, DFFRUGLnJ WR Jonathan Bleemer, town­shLS finDnFH GLUHFWRU. 7R pay for the DROP, he said, LW wLOO WDNH fivH yHDUs IRU D sWDUWLnJ RI­fiFHU WR JHW WR full salary in­stead of the cur­rent two, and new hires will con­trib­ute 5 per­cent to­ward their med­i­cal in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums.

Gazette staff photo by BOB RAINES

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? ... UDJAA cheer­lead­ers join their var­sity coun­ter­parts to wel­come the Up­per Dublin football team to the field for the Sept. 28 game against vis­it­ing Nor­ris­town.

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