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TIPS AND SNIPPETS: Gloucester City’s New Middle School Remains in Limbo

By Bill Cleary

In January I wrote Governor Christie about my concerns of the state building the $65  6a00d8341bf7d953ef011571114c5a970c-800wi million Middle School in Gloucester City. Specifically I mentioned the escalating cost, the declining enrollment figures and the fact that Gloucester City would be better served with building homes on the proposed site as it would help with needed tax ratable.

The Governor referred my letter to Bernard E. Piaia Jr., Director, Office of School Facilities.

In a letter dated May 5 he writes,

“The school facilities needs for the Gloucester City School District are set out in the school district’s approved long range facilities plan (LRFP). In brief, the LRFP established that a new middles school needs to be built in Gloucester City because of age and deteriorating condition of the Mary Ethel Costello School. Additionally, upgrading and expanding the school was considered to be not efficacious. This strategy was articulated in the school district’s 2000 and 2005 LRFP and was included in the New Jersey School Development Authority’s 2008 capital construction plan. After the need for a new school was determined, the school district proposed possible new sites to the Department of Education. Those sites were transmitted to the NJSDA for evaluation and action leading toward acquisition of the selected site.

“All school facilities projects are expected to be reevaluated to determine if they are still necessary.*If a particular project is deemed necessary, then the project will be reevaluated for cost effectiveness”.  ( *Reporter’s highlight )

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After reading Mr. Piaia’s comments it appears as though there is still more studies needed before a decision is made to build or not to build the proposed middle school. This review process has been going on for 10 years. The original cost when it was first proposed was $26 million. Now the figure has increased to between $60 million and $65 million. The site (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. The tax ratable loss, an estimated $100,000 to $150,000 annually.

An estimated $20 million was spent to clean up the environmental problems in this area. Several defunct industrial plants were located on the site. Just recently 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.

One further thought, the School Board also said in the mid 1990’s that the Highland Park School was beyond repair. However after they (the school board) got their way with the construction of the Cold Springs School, they applied for $5 million to make renovations to that school. The repairs were made and the school has been used by students ever since.

What will happen to M.E.Costello School, Cumberland and Joy Sts.,  if this new middle school is built?

One plan called for renovations of  the M.E. Costello School so that it could be used by the students presently attending the Highland Park School. The Highland Park School would be put up for sale even though $5 million was spent to improve it not to long ago.

The other plan called for a section of the M.E. Costello School on the Ridgeway Street side to be demolished and the remaining building to be renovated into offices for the administration. Under that plan the Highland Park School would not be sold.

What plan will be chosen is anyone’s guess.

But when you are spending the state’s money the sky is the limit. The only problem with that thought is that money comes from you and me.

Gloucester City Council passed a $600,000 bond ordinance on final reading at its May 3 work session meeting. The money will be used to fund construction of the Freedom Pier Walkway project at Proprietor’s Park, King Street and the Delaware River.

Hired at the same meeting to build the walkway for a cost of $343,170 was LEXA Concrete of Vineland NJ who was the low bidder.

At the same meeting a resolution was passed to release TD Bank performance bond in the amount of $232,324. The new bank opened last fall at the intersection of Broadway and Cumberland Street. The bank posted a $29,041 maintenance bond representing 15 percent of the construction cost amount for a period of two years to be used in accordance with state and municipal laws concerning land development.

To read other ordinances and resolutions go to http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/city_of_gloucester_city/

Mark Ford, president of the Gloucester City Rotary Club announced that the party planned for the Club’s 75th anniversary on May 15 has been canceled duo to unfortunate circumstances. “There are no plans to reschedule it at this time. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused anyone.”

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