EASTON, Pa. – It could be another four years before a new Palmer Elementary School would open should the battle between the Easton Area School District and a South Greenwood Avenue resident be settled right away, according to Alloy5 architect Randy Galiotto.
Galiotto, along with D’Huy Engineering architect Josh Grice, provided an update to members of the Easton Area School Board on Tuesday regarding the proposed new school. The district and resident Eric Adams have been at a stalemate over a proposed stormwater pipe that would encroach on Adams' property. Adams filed a land use appeal in April 2019 with Northampton County after refusing to accept a $95,000 district offer to settle the matter.
The original Palmer Elementary School building, which was constructed in the 1950s, has not seen a renovation since 1978, officials said. Plans for a new $33.5 million construction that were submitted for approval in 2016 were set to be completed by fall 2020. However, those plans have been in limbo. In order to construct the school under that plan, the district needs approval to put in a storm pipe. The pipe would be connected to what officials called a “bubbler” that sits on the school property. According to officials, Palmer Township installed the “bubbler” to prevent flooding in basements of nearby homes.
After looking into several options, officials say it was not feasible to just renovate the school. With the delays, construction costs could wind up costing an additional $700,000 per year, Galiotto said.
Superintendent David Piperato said on Tuesday that Palmer Township has proposed the “drastic step” of condemning a portion of Adams’ property.
“I think it’s obvious that something needs to be done to the school at Palmer,” Galiotto said.
Officials say regardless of the option, the addition of a storm pipe would improve drainage issues in the area.
Adams said despite what some may believe, he is not fighting the district.
“This has been very stressful for my wife and I to have this hanging over our heads,” he said.
According to Adams, the district is caught in the middle of Palmer Township’s “scheme” that would ultimately end up costing taxpayer dollars to add the storm pipe.
“If we did settle, the easement would be paid for by the residents,” Adams said. “The township has sort of taken advantage of the school district.”
Adams said the district has three options to break the stalemate: join his appeal, withdraw from the current land use plan and submit a new one, or vote against the eminent domain option that has been offered up as a resolution.
“The school district has never formally submitted a plan to use the bubbler,” he said.
Adams said he plans to submit a letter to the board in the coming days regarding the matter. A copy of the letter was obtained by WFMZ.com. In the letter, Adams said "no one benefits from an ongoing legal dispute."
Adams wrote that he and his wife will not sell the easement for any amount of money while the land use appeal is pending. He acknowledged that in October, 2018, he'd been willing to sell the easement for $115,000 plus restoration costs that he said were estimated to be at least $20,000. He said that was before they had confidence in their legal position.
In the letter, Adams said the township's requirement to use the easement for stormwater drainage is an artificial need. He believes the township has suggested to the school district that if the district submitted an alternate stormwater plan without the easement, the township may approve it.