The Seneca Valley School District has pulled out of a proposed nonprofit recycling and composting center spearheaded by three municipalities.
The CHZ Composting and Educational Center is a partnership between Cranberry Township, Harmony and Zelienople. The proposed site for the center is behind Northgate Plaza in Jackson Township.
The school district had previously been on board with the plan but recently revoked its support, according to volunteer Wes Hamilton.
“It's fair to say I'm surprised with the timing of the pullout because we haven't gotten to the point yet where anyone was asked irrevocably to commit to anything,” Hamilton said.
The Zelienople lawyer, who spearheads the composting project, added that he thought Seneca pulled out because former Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Fuller left the district for another job.
Fuller had previously been the main advocate of Seneca's involvement with the project, according to Hamilton, stressing the educational benefits of the site.
“You had the man (Fuller) who started out with the entire concept and built it up and all of a sudden you have someone new in his position,” Hamilton said. “I think that probably is the primary reason.”
Seneca Valley Director of Communications Linda Andreassi countered that assertion, however, and said the district had several reasons for leaving the project.
The first, she said, is the fact that two high school teachers recently received a $10,000 grant to build a new outdoor environmental classroom on Seneca's secondary campus.
“This opportunity will provide high school science students an outdoor classroom for learning activities as aligned to our current curriculum without transporting our secondary students to another site,” Andreassi said about the composting project.
In addition, Andreassi said the proposed composting site “does not provide opportunities beyond what is currently offered to Seneca Valley students.”
And on a final note, Andreassi said school officials felt there were too many intangibles wrapped up in the current composting proposal.
“There were many unanswered questions surrounding the ongoing maintenance of facilities, snow removal and future repairs,” she said. “Again, the district cannot commit to additional monies in the future as may be required of the proposed project.”
Hamilton said Seneca's absence will not drastically affect the project.
“I don't think their decision impacts the project from a long-term standpoint,” he said.
For now, Hamilton said he'll continue working with the three municipalities on the composting site.
The next steps include identifying invasive species on the site and removing them. The volunteers will also plant about 50 species of native trees in the area as an educational resource for local students.
Zelienople has previously applied to the state Department of Environmental Resources for a $250,000 grant to fund the project, with Cranberry Township and Harmony also named on the application.
Hamilton said CHZ hopes to be approved for a grant by the end of the year or early next year, but there is no timeline for when the funds would become available, if approved.