State College

State College Borough Council nears decision on College Heights school

A decision on whether Borough Council will intervene and purchase the former College Heights school building is nearing, and officials got a last chance Monday to hear from the community.

A handful of residents who sounded off at the council meeting didn’t deliver a consensus — some were for the umbrella nonprofit that wants to locate its center at the former school, and others said they believe Penn State would be the better buyer for the property.

Penn State wants the site to be the new home for the University Press and its 30 employees.

The Collaboration of Arts, Social Services and Education is looking for a building where its member groups, including the local chapter of the American Association of University Women and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Penn State, can have permanent offices and meeting areas.

Barbara Fisher, of Ferguson Township, called CASE officials “seasoned, dedicated and keenly motivated.” Others said CASE has been searching for a suitable location for years, often finding the downtown market too expensive and competitive.

Charlene Harrison, co-president of the local AAUW, and Amy Wilson, executive director of the Mid-State Literacy Council, spoke up for CASE, with Wilson saying such a center would foster collaboration between the member nonprofit organizations.

Others said they were concerned that CASE couldn’t afford to maintain the building and make repairs that might be necessary down the road. They said Penn State would be better suited to manage the property.

Deborah Howard, Penn State's director of facilities, resources and planning, previously told council that the building might need more than $2 million in renovations, including major projects such as a new roof, heating and air conditioning upgrades, window replacements and remediation for radon, lead and asbestos.

Council largely listened at the meeting and didn’t provide much input. It was the last of a series of public hearings that have afforded everyone from neighbors and local residents to the interested parties with a chance to weigh in.

The panel is expected to make a decision June 16 on whether it will exercise its right of first refusal to buy the property.

The State College Area School District has an agreement in place to sell the building to Penn State, but the borough has the first chance to buy, when it comes to all district-owned property in the municipality.

Also at the meeting Monday, council threw its weight behind proposed Senate and House bills that would allow all municipal police departments in Pennsylvania to use the same radar equipment as state police to detect speeders.

Police Chief Tom King said radar is less time consuming to operate than the timing systems the borough uses now, and is also easier for officers to be trained to operate.

“Here, if you have 15 extra minutes, and you have a complaint (about speeding), you can just park your car on the side of the road and point the radar gun,” said King, who is also president of the state police chiefs association.

King said the decision to only allow state police to use radar dates back to the 1960s and that he’s not heard a satisfactory explanation of why it was done that way. He said most other states have made moves to allow municipal police to use radar.