Westmont Hilltop board approves Price Field design with $1 million cost increase

Joshua Byers, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read

Apr. 16—An extra $1 million has been added to the cost of renovations to Price Field at Westmont Hilltop Elementary school.

The school board approved the increase, along with the final project design, at Thursday's meeting, for a total expenditure of roughly $7.5 million.

Lisa Drennen was the sole dissenter in an 8-1 vote.

"If we're at $6.5 (million) like we were before, to go to $7.5 (million) and get all these other things ... at that point, with money being cheap, I think it's smart," said John Messina, facilities committee chairman.

The additional cost is due to the construction of a building under the proposed home grandstand that will house the concession stand, bathrooms, two family restrooms, a mechanical room and unfinished space that could later be converted into changing rooms.

The new funds will be made up of $500,000 in additional bonds and an equal amount from the fund balance. That will raise the district's annual debt service payments by $25,000 for a total of $240,000 per year.

Despite the newly incurred cost, Messina was confident that the district could handle the cost. He said the project will be an improvement for the school district and the community.

"This project is not a leap of faith into budgetary unknowns," Superintendent Thomas Mitchell said during his report. "We know that this project will stretch our resources and challenge the administration and school board with some difficult future decisions, but the new facility will create value to our students and to our community."

The final design of the Price Field renovations includes a main entrance on Hood Avenue, new fencing, relocating of a playground, repositioning of the six-lane track, a video display board and a number of other improvements.

Track and field events won't be able to be held at the arena, although Mitchell said there's an acceptable location for throwing events nearby, but the soccer team will have an approved playing field.

In a related matter, the board approved Public Financial Management Inc. as advisers and Dinsmore & Shohl LLP as bond counsel for the issuance of general obligation bonds for a $4.5 million construction fund deposit. That vote also passed 8-1, with Drennen the only board member in opposition.