Ship Bottom Council Reappoints Fenimore to Land Use Board

By Gina G. Scala | Jul 10, 2019

Ship Bottom, NJ — Two months after William Fenimore resigned from the Ship Bottom Land Use Board amid concerns his serving as president of the Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education was a conflict of interest as the district undertook discussions about merging its two elementary schools into one and building renovations, he was reappointed to the post.

Fenimore’s reinstatement to the land use board, which maps out the future of the borough through looking at existing and potential development by way of a Master Plan it updates for permitted uses or limited development, came at the borough council’s June 25 meeting. His term on the board is through 2020.

“It’s a shame that one of the obstructionists (on the school board) said he couldn’t vote (on the school facilities plans),” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said when the discussion surrounding Fenimore’s reappointment arose during the council meeting.

Huelsenbeck said Fenimore, who was in the audience, “knew if he did (vote), then it would be months of contention.”

When Fenimore resigned from the land use board in April, he did so to focus on the children of the Island’s larger elementary school district. It educates students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade before those students graduate to the Southern Regional School District on the mainland. Beach Haven has its own elementary school district. Those students also attend Southern Regional middle and high schools.

Fenimore, who was elected president of the school board in January, is in his sophomore year on the consolidated board of education. He is the only representative from Ship Bottom, where the LBI Grade School, one of the district’s two schools, is located. That school has been the subject of intense discussions by the two factions on the board for more than a decade. One faction wants to shutter the school in favor of merging all district students and staff into the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City; the other wants to rehab the LBI School and keep two schools going for the foreseeable future.

Voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City rejected an $18.4 million referendum to expand and renovate the E.J. School in September 2017. If that had been approved, consolidating the district’s students and staff into the EJ School would have begun at the start of the current school year. Voters in Barnegat Light and Harvey Cedars approved the referendum.

In March 2018, the board hired Frank Little, a professional engineer, to update the April 2015 report on repairing the LBI Grade School, which he helped facilitate. He worked with the same team of professionals to deliver a consistent report, delivering it in August 2018 and again in September 2018 after making minor changes.

Instead of acting on the updated report, a majority of the board voted in December 2018 to submit an application to the state Department of Environmental Protection to see if the agency had any interest in purchasing either school as part of its Green/Blue Acres program. Earlier this spring, the board learned the state wasn’t interested.

On June 18, by way of a 5-3-1 vote, the school board approved multiple motions that could pave the way for a $7.2 million December referendum for rehabbing the LBI Grade School. The motions included a previous recommendation to have the consolidation plan in place by Sept. 1. Board President Fenimore, Vice President Bonnie Picaro, members Georgene Hartmann, Eileen Bowker and John McMenamin all voted yes. Board members Kristy Raber, Colette Southwick and Marilyn Wasilewski voted no on all matters pertaining to school consolidation and the facilities plan, which could lead to the December referendum. Board member James Donahower abstained.

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