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SDA Spokesperson Interviewed:

Public Hearing on Transfer of MEC School Deed to the City of Gloucester City Tonight at 8 PM

 

 

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Mary Ethel Costello School, 520 Cumberland Street, Gloucester City (photo credit: The South Jersey Observer)


William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (August 16, 2018)(CNBNewsnet)--The second reading and public hearing of the ordinance transferring the deed of the Mary Ethel Costello (MEC) School property, 520 Cumberland Street from the School District to the City of Gloucester City will be held tonight, Thursday, August 16 in council chambers, 313 Monmouth Street, at 7 PM.  The ordinance was introduced on first reading on July 26. 

 The State of New Jersey School Development Authority (NJSDA) approved the sale of the property in May.  Incidentally, the ordinance, which was passed on first reading on July 26, 2018, can't be found on the city's website.

CNBNews contacted the SDA earlier this week and asked their spokesperson, Edythe Maier why the state had to approve the sale between the school district and the city. The state spent millions on the building to remove asbestos and also to renovate the MEC gym. The state also spent millions on the abandoned Highland Park School to renovate it to house the district's alternative student program.

CNBNews: Does the state own the MEC property?

Maier: The SDA does not own the property. The SDA is involved due to previous construction work performed at the school by the SDA.

CNBNews: Does the state own the abandoned Highland Park School?

Maier: The SDA did not undertake a $3-5 million project at the Highland Park School as you referenced.

 CNBNews: Regarding the reason/rule for the SDA getting involved in the transfer of the deed of a school building to another government body, where would that information be found?

Maier: The information can be found in The Educational Facilities Construction Act, the Section 13C Implementation Agreement, and N.J.A.C. 6A:26-7.4 detail the requirements for district communication and interaction with the SDA. 

 CNBNews: Can we have a copy of the May SDA letter approving the transfer between the SDA and the Gloucester City School District and City Council?

 Maier: With regards to your document request, please submit an OPRA request. The form is available on our website.

 The MEC School was built in 1928 and was used first for a high school until 1961 when the new high school was built. Afterward, it was used for an elementary school. Millions were spent on upgrades to the school's gymnasium a few years ago. In September 2017 the MEC was vacated and replaced with the new $87 million elementary school built on Market Street.

The age of the MEC building and the fact that it was in need of major repairs to bring it up to code were the reasons given for abandoning it according to city school officials. 

 Despite the fact that the City and School officials have known that the 90-year-old building was going to be vacated for over a decade they have not told the public of their plans.  Our investigation has shown that School Superintendent Joseph Rafferty and Mayor William James first talked about this deed transfer in 2015. 

Editor's Note: CNBNews asked Maier for the name of the state agency who was responsible for paying for the update of the Highland Park school building.  We are waiting for her response.

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