Ship Bottom Moving Ahead With Design Plans for New Municipal Complex

Now that LBI School Safe from Closing
By GINA G. SCALA | May 29, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Ship Bottom — With the LBI Consolidated school board’s decision to develop a plan for merging its entire student body and staff into the LBI Grade School, Ship Bottom officials can now firmly move forward with design plans for a new municipal complex at the existing site between 16th and 17th streets where they intersect with the Boulevard.

“It was up in the air – if the LBI School was going to be available. We would have used some portion of it; maybe shift the new building over there,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said recently, adding that in some respect the board’s indecision held back borough officials’ plans for the new municipal complex. “We’re good to go (now).”

The borough council awarded a contract to Elliot W. Goldstein, AIA, PP, of the Maplewood firm The Goldstein Partnership, earlier this year. Goldstein is under contract with the borough through Dec. 31 of this year. The firm was selected because borough officials wanted a different perspective after looking at pre-Superstorm Sandy plans to determine if they were still viable, according to Councilman Joe Valyo, who heads up the public property and community affairs committee. A new municipal complex is expected to be built in front of the existing structure, making it closer to the Boulevard, the councilman has said. Once the new building is complete, the old complex will be demolished and parking will be in the back of the building along Central Avenue.

In the meantime, even as the school board took steps to create a long-range facility plan for the LBI School, it remained noncommittal on whether it would continue to operate two schools, or consolidate. 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 abandoned and the students merged into the Ethel A. Jacobsen School following the success of a referendum in 2017. Voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City rejected the proposal by a 2-to-1 tally. The board remains divided.

“They made the right choice with the school,” Huelsenbeck said of the school board’s 6-3 vote May 21.

Others, however, disagree, and following the vote two board members, along with a large contingent of teachers, walked out of the LBI School media center, where meetings have been held for nearly a year. Bill Hutson, who was the first person to address the board during the second public comment period, asked if Kristy Raber, a Surf City representative, and Colette Southwick, one of four women representing Long Beach Township on the board, had resigned their posts.

Raber and Southwick, along with Marilyn Wasilewski, voted against setting in motion an effort to develop a plan that could potentially see all district students and staff merge into one school, the LBI Grade School, by Sept. 1 of this year. Board President William Fenimore, Vice President Bonnie Picaro, Eileen Bowker, Georgene Hartmann, John McMenamin and James Donahower voted yes.

“Is it attainable? I’m not sure,” Ship Bottom resident Steve Moser said after the meeting, noting it was time the board worked with a firm deadline to achieve a goal.

Moser, who addressed the school board following its vote, framed those comments using a three-part approach he labeled a River Runs Through It, Minority Dispute Syndrome and the Titanic.

“I live less than a quarter of a mile (from the school), and no river runs through anything. We live on an island. Stop the rhetoric. It’s not helping,” he said in explaining his first approach, then added certain board members can’t handle the idea they are no longer in the majority. “Pull yourself up by your boots (and get on with it).”

In his last point, Moser touched on the most recent push by state legislators to consolidate all kindergarten through sixth-grade districts into K-12 regional districts.

“Let’s face it,” he said, “the ship is going down. Our district is going to consolidate with Stafford (most likely, at some point). We need to streamline our processes and show we’re a viable district.”

A bill requiring the county superintendent to establish a consolidation plan for all districts in the county, excluding pre-school or K-12 districts, into all-purpose regional districts, was introduced in the state Senate May 16. The county plan must be completed within 12 months of the bill’s adoption, should that happen. The proposed measure includes a three-month window for all eligible districts to voluntarily adopt a plan for the formation of an all-purpose regional district or merge into an existing one.

— Gina G. Scala

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