EPI Center backers get more time to save building
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.
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.