Mechanicsburg Area School District officials announced at a school board meeting Jan. 28 that the district is ready to initiate a “next step” to resolve an apparent misunderstanding about the Mechanicsburg Area Joint Recreation Committee Agreement that occurred between the district and Upper Allen Township in fall 2019.
District officials proposed a combined meeting that would involve each of the agreement’s members: Upper Allen Township and Mechanicsburg and Shiremanstown boroughs. District business administrator Greg Longwell said during the Jan. 28 meeting that the district would like to hear feedback from all involved parties about “how things are working.”
“We need to get some more information,” Superintendent Mark Leidy said. “Our goal is to get the right people at the table and see what we need to do to move forward. Periodically, one of the entities (in this agreement) will express concerns. I’ve seen it happen before.”
“We look forward to discussing the situation and reaching a fair agreement that allows the continued participation of our residents in the activities and classes offered,” Assistant Upper Allen Township Manager Scott Fraser said.
The proposed meeting stems from an apparent difference of opinion between the school district and Upper Allen Township regarding a move by the township to renegotiate its level of support to the recreation agreement.
Last fall, Upper Allen Township officials sent a letter to the school district, which was copied to Mechanicsburg Borough and Shiremanstown Borough, indicating the township commissioners voted unanimously on Sept. 18 to terminate the agreement, effective June 30, 2020, though it would be open to negotiating alternative funding options.
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The letter said the township does not want to participate in the agreement as it is currently structured for this cycle, which runs through June 30. Fraser said then that alternative funding options had been discussed in a previous meeting with the school district.
School district officials saw Upper Allen’s termination of the current agreement as a potential problem for its recreational programming and expressed concerns about maintaining programs at a school board meeting in October 2019.
Under the 2018-19 agreement, Upper Allen Township contributed $57,451 to the department, while Mechanicsburg Borough contributed $25,547 and Shiremanstown contributed $3,959. The school district covers the other costs of programming and runs the recreation department.
In a news release issued in October, the township said its decision to renegotiate the agreement is based on how much it has been contributing and what the township has received from it over the years. The township argued that when the joint agreement was created almost 50 years ago the recreation department ran more activities and coordinated the use of township park facilities and recreational equipment.
Upper Allen officials also said at the time that despite the township’s contributions, it has no say in what activities are offered, how the programs are run or the way the participation fees for township residents are determined.
Mechanicsburg School Board members said Jan. 28 they support district officials’ idea of organizing a combined meeting to possibly renegotiate the agreement.
“I’m generally supportive to make this work. It’s worked so far. We already have the infrastructure in place for it,” board vice president Brian Sanker said.
Longwell said after that meeting that district officials would like to conduct a joint meeting “in the next month or so.”