Districts begin battle in court

LEWISTOWN – Attorneys representing Mifflin and Juniata County school districts in a lawsuit regarding the future of the Mifflin-Juniata Career and Technology Center gave impassioned arguments Tuesday during a hearing at the Mifflin County Courthouse.

The CTC is a vocational educational center built in 1968 in Mifflin County where several programs are offered to high school students in both counties. Some of the programs offered at the CTC include Agriculture Technology, Auto Mechanics, Building Trades, Culinary Arts, Cosmetology and Medical Sciences.

Mifflin County School District terminated a long-standing agreement with Juniata County School District regarding the CTC during a school board meeting on July 26, 2012. The Board of Directors passed the resolution by a 7-0 vote.

Shortly thereafter the Mifflin County School District, by and through its Board of Directors, filed a lawsuit asking the court to award ownership of the land to MCSD. At present, Mifflin County School District owns roughly 71 percent of the land, while Juniata County School District owns roughly 29 percent of the land. In addition, 75 percent of the approximately 400 students attending the CTC are from Mifflin County School District, which also incurs 75 percent of the costs, according to court documents.

At the heart of the matter is whether or not the Articles of Agreement are a “perpetual contract,” which Thomas Breth, the attorney representing Mifflin Count School District, asserts is not the case. A perpetual contract would require both parties to agree to terminate the agreement.

Breth argued during Tuesday’s hearing the language in the Articles of Agreement, give either party the right to terminate the agreement after the five-year term has ended, which occurs on June 30, 2013.

The attorney for the Juniata County School District, Jeffrey Litts argued that when the Articles of Agreement are looked at in their entirety, it is clearly a perpetual contract.

Both attorneys cited case law to back up their respective arguments and visiting Centre County Senior Judge David E. Grine gave no indication on how long it would be before he would rule on the outcome of the case.

Two more hearings are scheduled to take place on May 9 and 10, respectively, in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas.

Mifflin County options for new CTC building

In November 2012, Mifflin County School Board approved a motion to look into the feasibility of reopening the former Highland Park Area Elementary School building and housing the CTC at that location. The district’s architect, Vern McKissick, presented the board with two concept sketches at its Dec. 20, 2012 board meeting.

The Highland Park building measures 67,000 square feet and has a capacity to house the 10 programs currently offered at the CTC. Preliminary costs under the first option would be $7.8 million, with an additional $1.3 million in soft costs, according to McKissick said.

Under a second option, the district would house all its administrative personnel at the building in addition to CTC programs, which would eliminate the current administration building, at a cost of $8.7 million and additional soft costs that could bring the total to over $10 million, McKissick said.