Carbondale Area School District officials are being accused of “criminal” behavior with regard to the deplorable condition of the former Fell Elementary School in Simpson.

Carbondale Area School District officials are being accused of “criminal” behavior with regard to the deplorable condition of the former Fell Elementary School in Simpson.
In April of 2000, the district decided to close the school and consolidate all elementary students at the expanded Carbondale Area Elementary School, located behind the high school on the district campus at 101 Brooklyn Street.  Some parents of students attending the Fell school at that time wanted to keep their kids in the community, so they formed what became the Fell Charter Elementary School.
A legal battle eventually erupted between the two entities over the former Fell Elementary, and Carbondale Area won the right to keep control of the building as long as it was being used for school purposes.  However, Fell Twp. officials and residents have complained for years that the district had essentially abandoned the facility and was letting it rot, holding onto it only to keep the charter school group from taking possession of it and building its permanent home at the site.
With the opening of the newly-constructed Fell Elementary Charter School for the start of the 2013-14 school year, Carbondale Area officials announced that the old Fell school was no longer being used for school purposes.
Earlier this year, Carbondale Area School Board agreed to transfer the property to the private foundation of developer Michael Melnick, who plans to raze the old school and construct a recreation center at the site.  The board voted unanimously in March to enter into an agreement of sale with Melnick’s foundation and quitclaim the district’s interest in the property, in as-is condition, for the amount of $1.
However, the actual transfer of the former school was delayed when a partial roof collapse occurred in building, while at the same time the board discovered that the motion it adopted in March was invalid due to a technical error.  The directors have since re-voted on the measure, correcting the technicality, and the property transfer to Melnick’s foundation has now been completed.
Last week, Fell Twp. building inspector Randy Wallis addressed the township supervisors at their meeting and told them that he recently toured the inside of what looks in all ways to be a long-abandoned facility in the former school.
“At the end of one hallway, you see what looks like carpeting, but it’s not,” he noted.  “It’s all moss that’s been growing there.”
“I know I’ve said this before, but it’s criminal to let the building go like that,” he argued.  “And it was done for spite, just to keep it out of the hands of the Fell Charter School.”
Wallis compared the condition that the school was left in to a willful act of property destruction.
“If you were to go over to the [Carbondale Area] high school and throw a rock through the window, you’d be arrested,” he related.  “Well, this is the same thing.”
“The taxpayers are the ones who paid for it,” he offered of the old Fell school.  “Then they [the school board members] turn around and raise taxes for their new school.  It just isn’t right.”
“I still don’t understand how no one can be held responsible,” Wallis added.
In a related matter at last week’s supervisors’ meeting, board chairman Ron Cosklo noted that work was set to get underway this week on the demolition of the old Fell school.  He said the target date is July 17.
Carbondale Area School District superintendent Joseph Gorham was on vacation last week so he wasn’t available to respond to Wallis’ remarks.
District business manager David Cerra declined to comment, saying only that the district had legal possession of the Fell school property on the basis of a decision by the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas.   
“But not having been there, I can’t comment on anything that was said at a Fell Township Supervisors meeting,” he noted.