Easton School Board adopts more stringent graduation requirements

Easton Area High School

Easton's Cottingham Stadium may get an artificial turf playing surface instead of the grass the Red Rovers play on now. That could add $800,000 to $900,000 to the price of a project that was rejected last month after public opposition to the $20 million cost.

Acting Easton Area School District Superintendent Frank D'Angelo said Tuesday that an artificial surface could be used for more activities, make the stadium more useful to the community and thus bring in more potential grants. That could offset the extra expense, he said.

The school board took no action on the stadium renovations at its committee meetings on Tuesday. D'Angelo said afterward that he has been meeting with the Cottingham design and engineering team to come up with "the most cost-effective yet appropriate stadium" on the site of 95-year-old field.

D'Angelo declined to give any target price for the stadium. He said a base cost would be presented to the board along with potential increases for other features in about four to six weeks. He would not say if a new stadium could be ready for the 2020 football season.

The board rejected bids last month for a renovated Cottingham that would have cost $20.2 million to $20.8 million, depending on certain options. The cost for renovating the 1920s-era stadium started at about $13 million, then jumped to $15.5 million before the final estimates topped $20 million.

The board also considered a $932,930 project for 300-seat bleachers, buildings and renovations near Easton Area High School's track and field venue. Board member Robert Fehnel, head of the buildings and grounds committee, suggested some changes to the plan to cut the cost. That proposal will be voted on later.

The board also took no action on a plan to spend $20,000 – about 1/1000th of the stadium renovation cost – to improve the high school's baseball field. Fehnel and board President George Chando said the need for work on the field should have been raised by the administration earlier, after the spring season ended. The board will consider that spending at a meeting later this month.

In other business, the board approved the auction by Macarro Auctions of the contents of Palmer Elementary School, which is due for demolition.

"What is sell-able, we will sell," Tom Macarro told the board. "We're going to make money for you folks. The quicker we move, the more money you will make."

There will be a walk-through for potential buyers from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 12, and the auction will begin Oct. 19 at 9 a.m.

The board did hear some potentially good news from Ken Phillips of RBC Capital Markets, which advises the district on finances. Low rates in the municipal market indicate the district could refinance several bonds, for savings equal to about $1.5 million present value.

Phillips said if the board goes ahead with the bond refunding, it should consider including its next round of borrowing, about $20 million for capital projects, in the deal.