CLEARFIELD – Support for a beloved coach and the possibility for economic growth in the county topped discussion at the Clearfield Area School Board meeting last night.
The meeting began with comments from visitors, and Fred Redden spoke to the board about softball coach Bob Lewis. Redden said he and those gathered with him want Lewis to be reappointed and asked the board to move on the decision, which was recently tabled.
“We stand together as a group,” he said, noting that if Lewis does not return as coach, many of those who have worked with Redden and Lewis to build up the program as volunteers, parents and athletes will also walk. “Either you’re for us or against us,” he concluded.
Lewis then rose and spoke to the board, reading a letter he composed. He said he inherited the program in 2012 and at that time, there were few players in the program and little interest from the elementary students.
He said he and Redden worked to create a little league softball program in the Clearfield Area, which has grown to four age divisions and merged with other districts. The 11-12 year old all-star team recently placed fourth in the state.
He said volunteers spend countless hours on the program, and they are beginning to see the fruits of their labor at the high school level with players not only interested, but also ready and willing to compete at a level rarely seen outside of college level play.
This year, the team played for the District 9 title and only lost by one point. He said both parents and students love the program and have worked hard.
Then, two months ago, he learned the position was tabled by the board but didn’t know why, and no one from the school district contacted him about it. After some time, he learned that some parents had started saying he wasn’t good for the program and were working to have him removed.
Lewis said he didn’t understand why this had happened and said he thought he had done the right things for the year-round program. Now he knows who started the discussion, which Redden earlier had said is tearing the group a part, and he called them cowards for not speaking to him face-to-face or even calling him with concerns.
“Our program is fine,” he stated, adding that the problems have been fabricated by selfish people. He added there is no way he can ever make every single person happy, but the decisions made were to make the program as well as it could be.
The board did not discuss the matter during the meeting and Lewis’ position is currently not on the voting agenda for next week’s meeting. However, the board did hold an executive session after the regular meeting on personnel with no action taken.
During new business, the board also heard from Alan Walker and Margie Guido concerning an economic opportunity for the county.
Walker began by stating he has long been concerned about Clearfield County’s economic future and has worked to improve that outlook and diversifying the local economy.
He then said the state legislature created 12 new Keystone Opportunity Zones in July and people in the area, including in Girard Township, are working to apply to have one of those zones located in Clearfield County and resolutions need to be passed by the township, county and school district before they can make the application, and the application deadline is Oct. 1.
Walker then introduced Guido, who is spearheading the project. Guido, who is from DuBois, said she learned about an up and coming growing industry for data centers.
She explained that data centers are essentially huge buildings housing computers to service the growing need for data, for artificial intelligence found in smartphones, tablets, global positioning systems and so on, especially with the growth of cloud computing.
Guido said she has been working for three years to find a way to bring one of these data centers to the area. Right now Virginia is seeing growth in the industry and Ohio will be building four centers.
However, Pennsylvania is being left behind due to the tax climate. With a KOZ, a company can be attracted to the area to build a data center, creating jobs not only for the center itself, but also for the surrounding community in support jobs, such as restaurants, housing, grocery, and more.
Requirements for a data center are land and energy, Guido said. “We have lots of these.” Jobs would range from grounds-keeping and security to engineering. Additionally, it takes about five years to actually build the center, and companies such as Microsoft prefer to use local construction companies.
Guido explained that a one-million square foot facility equals about 120 on-site jobs, and her group is aiming for a four-million square foot facility. Another advantage to the area is the close proximity of several universities, including Penn State, where the workforce can be trained.
A data center will also be a boost to the gas industry, as the company will need energy and the best source in the area is natural gas from Marcellus Shale.
Walker added that the chance for success for attracting a data center is about 90 percent. The county has the land, the energy and, best of all, the right climate.
Data centers need to be kept cool, and northern climates such as Pennsylvania are the perfect places for the centers. Companies save money because they can often air cool the buildings in such climates.
So far, Girard Township voted on a resolution in support of the KOZ. The item will be up for vote at next week’s school board meeting and at an upcoming commissioners’ meeting, as well.
During next week’s voting meeting, the board will consider new hires, leaves, resignations, the creation of several positions and additional hours and mentors under personnel.
Under buildings, finance and activities, the board will consider after-school bible classes at Clearfield Elementary, a field trip, and garbage removal bids. Other items may be added to the agenda prior to the meeting.