BY CNBNEWS STAFF
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ---Gloucester City School Superintendent Joe Rafferty reported at the Thursday, March 7 Board of Education caucus meeting, that construction on the proposed middle school will begin in January 2015 with a completion date sometime in 2017. We reached out to Superintendent Rafferty for more information. He wrote in a email,
“We had a meeting with SDA (NJ School Development Authority) on Thursday, March 7th. It was a kick off meeting for the new school project. They stated to us that construction should start January of 2015 with a completion date of January 2017. With the building being open March 2017.
“We have a phone conference planned for Wednesday, March 13, to review details. A work session meeting is planned for Wednesday, March 20.
“As I get additional information I will keep you up to date with the project.”
The school was first proposed in 2002. The original cost was $26 million. Overtime the figure has risen to between $60 million and $67 million. The new school will replace the 100-year-old Mary Ethel Costello School, Cumberland and Joy Streets.
The site chosen for the school (Market Street between 5th and 6th Streets south to Jersey Avenue) was cleared in 2006. Seventy homeowners and two businesses were forced to move under eminent domain.
After the homes were demolished an estimated $20 million was spent to clean up the environmental problems at that location. Several defunct industrial plants were located on the site. In May 2010 the community of Gloucester City paid to have underground oil tanks removed. Why they were not taken out when the environmental cleanup was being done is a mystery.
In September 2010 Paul Spaventa, who was city school superintendent at the time, met with SDA representative Marc Larkins, chief executive officer of the SDA. When the topic of the the middle school came up Larkins pointed to the Gloucester City project as the kind of project that may be untenable. Larkins said the lack of money is one problem. At that meeting Spaventa stated that so far state taxpayers had spent more than $37 million on this project just for land acquisition, demolition, design, utilities and more.
“It will be a fabulous school, I’m sure, but the question is how many $67 million elementary schools can the state afford to build?” Larkins asked.
The school has been controversial since it was first announced 13 years ago. That debate was mentioned at the 2010 meeting by Spaventa, “the demolition of the 70 homes and two businesses created hard feelings felt to this day.”
The estimated tax ratable loss from those home and businesses, according to Spaventa, $3.5 million.