SALTSBURG--Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board has yet to decide on specifics of a new project for updating the district's school buildings.
But the board has made one key decision: as it plans a building project and moves forward to construction, it will rely on the services of a new architectural consultant, L. Robert Kimball and Associates.
The board voted 5-0-1 to hire the Ebensburg firm after hearing proposals from three architectural consultants at a special meeting Wednesday evening.
Voting to approve the hiring were board president Beverly Caranese, Michael Smith, Linda Brown, Linda Johnson and Brett Treece. Paul Bell abstained, indicating he wanted more time to consider the proposals. Michael LaMantia, Ed Smith and George Rowley were absent.
District Solicitor Gary Matta said he would meet with representatives from Kimball to negotiate a formal agreement for its services that the school board could consider at its next meeting.
Blairsville-Saltsburg officials directed that the terms of the agreement should not exceed those established for the district's previous architect, HHSDR.
Matta indicated that firm was to have received compensation equaling about 6 percent of the construction cost of a previous high school consolidation project.
The same five-member board majority, consisting of directors from the Saltsburg area, last month brought a halt to the proposed $25.6 million consolidation project, which would have bused Saltsburg students in grades 7-12 to a consolidated high school at Blairsville. Last week, the board majority also voted to dismiss HHSDR.
The failed consolidation plan would have closed the current Saltsburg Elementary School and converted the Saltsburg Middle/High School into a new elementary building for the community. Many opponents of that plan called instead for making needed renovations to keep both Saltsburg buildings open.
Caranese said the school board will now seek input from the community and district staff as it works with Kimball to develop a new "project we can get to work on."
School directors originally decided to meet Jan. 30 to hear proposals from architectural firms, but that session was moved to Wednesday.
According to its presentation, Kimball, established in 1953, has done work for more than 80 school districts in seven states.
Ryan M. Pierce, Kimball's vice president for K-12 architecture, said work on school projects represents 65 percent of the firm's business.
Some of the projects it has designed include a new junior/high school for Richland School District, a new Altoona Middle School and additions and renovations to Pittsburgh's historic Concord Elementary School.
Scott E. Palmquist, vice president for business development, noted Kimball also has been involved with projects at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and at some county prisons.
The firm indicated one of its first …