$5.3 million OCPS property borders massive gas pipelines

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Orange County taxpayers bought a $5.3 million property in 2005 for a new school that could be too dangerous to build on.

Massive gas transmission lines 24 and 26 inches in diameter border the property on Lake Stanley Road, which are bigger than typical gas lines.

The site north of Apopka Vineland Road could have been the new Evans High School.

"There is no way I'd want kids to be on a site like this," said Vicky Bell, Orange County school board member.

UCF engineering professor Manoj Chopra agrees.

"Typically, you do not want to build anywhere close to these pipelines," Chopra said.

Two years ago, a horrific San Bruno, Calif. explosion killed eight people.

School board member Vicky Bell wanted to know if school board members were ever told about the gas lines.

"Is there anything in writing that informed the school board members that there are high-powered gas lines adjacent to the property? Um, that is a very good question. I don't know the answer to that," Woody Rodriguez, OCPS attorney said.

The answer is no.

The husband of former school board member Karen Ardaman represented the property's seller, Jaber Inc.

Ardaman did recuse herself during the discussion and vote.

Frank Kruppenbacher, former OCPS attorney referred questions to the firm he hired to handle the purchase, Marchena and Graham. The firm referred questions back to OCPS.

Woody Rodriguez, current OCPS attorney said the district studied the issue three years after the purchase, but "all recommendations were for the board to approve it" at the time.

The study found the risk to be "insignificant" but it did say the great majority of pipeline incidents are related to construction activities which could create defects that result in significant pipeline failure years later.

Engineer Barry Reiter is surprised staff recommended the purchase.

"Well what we are standing on is a giant red flag," said Barry Reiter, chemical and environmental engineer. "You've purchased a lot of property that essentially you can't use."

Kurt Ardaman issued this statement, that his firm "handled the real estate transaction, like any other commercial real estate transaction … and my wife would have recused herself from any OCPS board decision on the matter. There was nothing inappropriate about the transaction.

Ardaman did not answer questions about whether his firm disclosed the pipelines, nor how much he made on the transaction.