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Plans for new Palmer Elementary School at least three years behind schedule, maybe more

Allentown Morning Call logo Allentown Morning Call 1/9/2020 By Michelle Merlin, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

At best, the Easton Area School District’s plans to build a new Palmer Elementary school on its existing footprint are three years behind schedule, potentially five.

But as Randy Galiotto from architect Alloy5 and Josh Grice from D’Huy Engineering said at a school board meeting Tuesday, the reality is that one of two things would need to happen for that plan ? first approved in November 2016 ? to come to fruition: The district would need an easement from nearby landowner Eric Adams, or get Palmer Township to approve the district’s use of an existing “bubbler,” which discharges water from the district’s property on Green Pond Road into the adjacent neighborhood.

The former would require the district to use eminent domain to obtain an easement that Adams says he’s unwilling to sell. The latter would require the township to approve an idea that in November 2017 it told the district it wouldn’t approve, according to the presentation.

The district uses the bubbler, and plans for the new school would reduce the amount of runoff coming off the site, officials said. The township still wants the district to make improvements and gave conditional approval to a plan to run pipe through Adams’ property, which he said would cause flooding.

Given the constraints, Superintendent David Piperato said Monday the district has limited options: Renovate the existing building, which is not feasible; build the school at another site in Palmer; build a second elementary school at the site of Tracy Elementary; renovate the middle school space and redistrict; or build outside of Palmer Township.

“Considering everything that has been discussed this evening, there are limited options at this time,” he said.

Board member Meg Sayago voiced her frustration with the township’s requirement to solve a stormwater problem not entirely of the district’s making.

“We’re looking at reducing our impact even further. I honestly cannot understand why it would be the school district’s responsibility to get that easement that the township is requiring for this project to go forward,” she said.

District officials have been talking about building a new Palmer elementary school since they unveiled a five-year capital projects plan in November 2016. It was supposed to be one of four elementary schools to be rebuilt or renovated. At the time, construction was supposed to start in the summer of 2018 and last two years.

It was on track to open at the same time as the new Cheston Elementary, which is expected to open in August.

In June 2019, district officials took a step toward obtaining the easement for Adams’ property through eminent domain by voting to have the property appraised. But they haven’t taken further action.

Adams on Monday thanked the board for not condemning his property thus far.

“It’s very stressful for my wife and I to have this hanging over us all the time,” he said. He urged the district to formally submit a plan involving the existing bubbler to the township, which he said hasn’t been done. He said the township-approved plan would result in flooding on his property.

He said he doesn’t think the district should be on the hook for flooding problems in the neighborhood, and that the district should join his side in an appeal against the township.

Palmer Elementary students have been attending classes at empty space on the district’s middle school campus in Forks Township since February 2019. The move was supposed to be temporary while the old school was knocked down and a new one built in its place.

Other elementary students in the district have stayed in the middle school space for a short period of time. Paxinosa, Tracy and Forks students were in the space for a year or less while their schools were renovated.

Palmer Elementary was last renovated in 1978.

Morning Call reporter Michelle Merlin can be reached at 610-820-6533 or at


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