Members of The Dickinson School of Law's governors board wasted no time yesterday in comparing local finance offers to an offer by Penn State to build Dickinson a $60 million facility at University Park. Board members peppered local, county and state government and business leaders with questions about loans, grants and gifts.
"We're sort of down to the nitty-gritty now," said M. Fletcher Gornall, one of about 16 board members who met with the leaders.
He said that when the board learned in November that Penn State proposed building a facility to replace the aging buildings in Carlisle, ?it sort of took our breath away.??
"That's tough competition. Where are we going to get the $60 million to build in Carlisle?" he said.
Sen. Hal Mowery, R-Cumberland, brought the board a letter from Gov. Ed Rendell vowing to release $25 million from the capital budget to renovate or replace the school in Carlisle. The hitch is the money would have to be matched by an equal amount of other funds.
"Now we have to find another $25 million. Are there any other buckets of money available at the local or regional levels?" asked LeRoy S. Zimmerman, board chairman.
Local leaders said help in the form of expansion space, donations and construction planning has been offered by the borough, Dickinson College and the Carlisle Area Health and Wellness Foundation. The Foundation owns the hospital building just blocks from the law school. That building will be vacated in June 2006 when a new hospital opens in South Middleton Twp.
Cumberland County Redevelopment and Housing Authority could help with loans and would suspend fees. Local and regional foundations could supply grants up to $7 million, leaders estimated.
Zimmerman said a fair financial comparison can't be made until Penn State reveals how much it would contribute toward a new Carlisle facility for Dickinson.
The school's board of governors has asked Penn State President Graham Spanier for that figure and for an official declaration of the amount that would be spent on a facility in University Park.
?We want to make sure we have an offer in writing,?? Zimmerman said.
Penn State should spend the greater amount on a new Carlisle facility, Mowery said.
"That's the sentiment of many of the board members," Zimmerman said.
Mowery also said it's been rumored a gift worth millions could come from a board member. He declined to name the donor, but Lewis Katz, principal owner of the New Jersey Nets, is on the board.
Board members agreed Dickinson needs a substantial upgrade or complete replacement to stay competitive. Spanier and law school Dean Philip McConnaughay have said a move could improve students' academic options and Dickinson's rankings.
The idea of a move caught many by surprise since the law school's merger with Penn State included plans to keep the school in Carlisle.
School alumni, the local community and some board members have spoken against a move. A study by William Bellinger, a professor at nearby Dickinson College, showed the community would lose 227 jobs and about $20 million in net community spending if the law school left.
It wasn't clear how much additional discussion the board expected to hold at yesterday's daylong meeting. The board discussed the move with law professors behind closed doors.
The Patriot-News and The Sentinel of Carlisle have sued to open board meetings to the public. They are asking the state Supreme Court to permit an appeal of a Commonwealth Court decision that allows the board to meet privately.
Board members will take part in the law school graduation at 10:30 a.m. today at Dickinson College, which is next to but not affiliated with the law school. Keynote speaker is attorney Reid Weingarten, a 1975 law school alumnus who is a former trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice and former Dauphin County deputy district attorney.
ELIZABETH GIBSON: 249-2006 or email@example.com
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PHOTO; DAN GLEITER; Caption: Among those taking part in yesterday's meeting of The Dickinson School of Law's governors board were, from left, Rusty Shunk and Michelle Hornick, Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce; Frank Rankin, Carlisle Borough Council, and Christopher Gulotta, Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.; Sen. Hal Mowery, R-Cumberland, left, speaks with Dickinson School of Law Dean Philip McConnaughay after yesterday's board meeting.