Robertsdale Elementary School

Plans to transform the former Robertsdale Elementary School into a senior housing complex were launched Wednesday evening by the Wood Township Supervisors in cooperation with the Center for Community.

The Wood Township Supervisors Wednesday evening set in motion the first phase of the proposed Robertsdale Senior Apartments project with the signing of several required documents. The action highlighted the monthly session of the municipal leaders in a meeting held in Robertsdale.

Supervisors Bill Black, Tom Love and chairman Kirby Lockard approved and inked three documents necessary to move forward with the project. On hand to review the multi-phase low income senior apartments project was Wendy Melius, executive director of the Center for Community Action (CCA).

The supervisors are instigating a two-phase project calling for the establishment of affordable senior housing units in the former Robertsdale Elementary School at 722 Main St., Robertsdale, which eventually will include 23 apartments.

The first phase of the project calls for the creation of nine rental units in the front part of the grade school, once the location of the Robertsdale High School. The price tag for 23 units was estimated around $3 million, noted Melius. The first phase of the project is expected to carry a pricetag of $1.7 million.

When the entire project is funded and completed, the senior housing units will total 23, relying on 26,706 square feet of space. The 4.32-acre site also includes a multipurpose room (former high school and grade school gym) and a commercial kitchen totaling 5,472 square feet of space.

A state market study into the need for affordable senior housing in Wood Township indicated that although the local population is declining, the need for senior housing (age 65 and older) is growing, due in part to the diversion of local housing for seasonal use.

The proposed school conversion project surfaced after the Tussey Mountain School District closed the Robertsdale school and neighboring Defiance Elementary School last year. Earlier this year, the Robertsdale complex was deeded over to Wood Township, while the Defiance property was turned over to the Broad Top Township Supervisors. Both municipalities are working closely with the CCA to create senior housing in their respective properties.

A tentative timetable for the first phase of the Robertsdale project begins with the submission of a funding grant to the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), established by Act 105 of 2010 which focuses on funding from the Realty Transfer Tax Fund and the National Housing Trust Fund Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, explained Melius.

Other funding sources being studied by the CCA range from the HOME Grant Program (an entity of the state Department of Community and Economic Development) to the PHARE 2018 Marcellus Shale funding program.

The PHARE grant application needs to be submitted by Nov. 16, followed by the HOME Grant application during the first quarter of 2019, said Melius.

A preliminary design and construction timetable for the first phase of the project begins with the finalization of design work by March 2019, followed by the advertising for bids in April 2019. Bids would be reviewed in June 2019, followed by the awarding of bids in September 2019, explained Melius.

The first phase of the $1.7 million project calls for in-kind services to be provided by the township (utilities, maintenance, etc.) as its $35,000 match while $165,000 will also be needed to balance out the grant. The township, working through the CCA, is in the process of seeking the $165,000 bank loan.

The supervisors Monday evening approved and signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the township and the CCA recognizing that the two groups are committed to a “working relationship” in pursuing the senior housing project as well as the adoption of a resolution between the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and the township regarding the submission of an application to the PHFA, seeking $500,000 to aid in the renovation of the elementary school into low income senior housing. The supervisors, working with the CCA, also initiated the search for a bank loan of $165,000 to support the proposed project.

Turning to other matters the supervisors reminded the public of a PennDOT Public Plans Display set for Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Robertsdale, Wood and Broad Top Volunteer Fire Co. fire hall in Robertsdale. The session will include a public review of plans for the proposed Great Trough Creek Bridge Replacement Project in Robertsdale.

The public display session is from 6-7:30 p.m. along with a meeting between township officials and PennDOT scheduled for 4-5 p.m.

The two sessions will involve the display of bridge plans by PennDOT officials which will also include time for the public to ask questions. According to PennDOT’s engineering district personnel the bridge replacement project calls for minimal approach roadway work.

During the construction period, current plans call for maintaining traffic on the bridge using a single alternating lane, concluded PennDOT officials.

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