LBI School Board Expected to Approve December Referendum

By GINA G. SCALA | Jun 19, 2019

Ship Bottom — The Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education was expected to vote on multiple agenda items Tuesday night that could pave the way for a December referendum for renovations to the LBI Grade School in accordance with architectural drawings and specifications from Owen, Little & Associates Inc. (Visit our website for an update later today).

Under unfinished business, the school board on June 18 was slated to discuss a motion to develop plans for moving students from the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City to the LBI School at a future date, according to the agenda posted to the district’s website prior to the meeting. School consolidation, noted as revised on the agenda, was listed as the first item in a series of motions moving toward a referendum to be discussed by the school board. Last month, the board voted 6-3 on a motion to develop a plan for moving students and staff into the LBI School. Board President William Fenimore, Vice President Bonnie Picaro, Georgene Hartmann, Eileen Bowker, John McMenamin and James Donahower all voted yes on the motion at the May 21 meeting. Board members Kristy Raber, Colette Southwick and Marilyn Wasilewski voted against it.

The next agenda item, which would have allowed Frank Little, a principal in Owen, Little & Associates of Beachwood to complete plans for renovating the LBI School in order to submit those plans to the state Department of Education, was marked “to be tabled” on the agenda.

“Whereas, it is the intent of the Board to submit a School Facilities Project application for the rehabilitation of the Long Beach Island Grade School,” the resolution for the facility project, which is the third item under unfinished business on the agenda, reads in part. “Whereas, a detailed scope of work will be developed as preparation of engineering and architectural plans move forward.”

The resolution goes on to note after discussions with the DOE Facilities Branch, submission of a project application, cost estimate and initial construction plans are required to begin the process. It also reads, in part, that the rehab project would not involve a change in the use of existing classrooms or office space.

If approved, the resolution would authorize the board to submit the school facilities project application to the DOE as well as sending a copy of the resolution itself in support of the application.

“The Board hereby requests the NJDOE review the Project Application, Plans, Construction Estimate and Resolution and provide approvals for a December 2019 Referendum,” according to the resolution. “The appropriate officers of the Board are further authorized and directed to execute any and all documents necessary to supplement and effectuate the terms of this Resolution.”

The final agenda item expected to be voted on by the board is a professional services agreement. The resolution, if approved, would allow the board to retain McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC, Roseland as bond counsel to provide specialized legal services necessary in connection with “the capital program and the authorization and the issuance of obligations of the Board in accordance with an Agreement dated as of June 18, 2019, and submitted to the board.”

According to the resolution, the contract could be awarded without competitive bidding because of its status as a professional service and in accordance with the public-school contracts law.

Background. The school board has been at odds about what to do regarding the district’s two schools since the discussion surrounding consolidation began nearly a decade ago. By all accounts, the LBI School was to be shuttered in favor of the EJ School following an $18.4 million referendum in the fall of 2017, which did not pass. Voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City rejected the proposal by a 2-to-1 tally. The board remains divided.

In the aftermath of the defeated referendum, the board pursued other options in a bid to move firmly, and finally, beyond it. Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Protection rejected one of those alternatives when it informed the district its Green/Blue Acres application for the purchase of the LBI Grade School and the eventual use as a natural park was denied. In making the announcement, the state indicated it would kick the application back to Ocean County’s Natural Lands Trust Fund program, Fenimore said at the time. The county program is funded through a dedicated tax, providing the board of chosen freeholders with the funds to acquire lands within the county for conservation. A nine-member advisory committee is tasked with advising on the preparation of the required open space plan and the nomination of properties.

The school district went that route itself in 2015 when it sought to preserve the LBI School as open space, but wasn’t eligible for funding at that time. Only time will tell if things have changed, but the board isn’t wasting any of the ticking clock sitting on its hands.

— Gina G. Scala

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