OCEANPORT: A lengthy May 10 workshop meeting of the Oceanport Board of Education (BOE) resulted in more clarity for the upcoming referendum that will decide the future of the borough's school district.
The BOE came into the night with eight options of how to rehabilitate the district's two aging schools, Wolf Hill Elementary School and Maple Place Middle School, and ended the night with three options.
The first option is to build a new PreK-4 school behind Wolf Hill School at an estimated cost of $19.2 million and do minor renovations to Maple Place School at a cost of about $10 million. The board felt this was a better option than renovating Wolf Hill School because the students would not need to be relocated and it was also cheaper than demoing the original building or renovating it and making additions to it. The Maple Place School also is in not in need of major repairs (another one of the board's original options) and its systems are in better shape than the aging infrastructure at Wolf Hill School.
The second option is to build a new Prek-8 school at Fort Monmouth near the proposed Oceanport Municipal Complex off of Main Street. Two sites were presented, but the board ultimately eliminated one that would involve swapping land with Eatontown in order to acquire it due to its proximity to the border between the two boroughs at the fort.
The 2-story school would cost about $30 million to build, but that price does not include the acquisition price of land from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). The option is also complicated because the BOE would not be able to simply purchase the land from FMERA, it would have to put in a bid for it, a process which cannot be done because the referendum needs to include the total price of what is to be bonded when it is put out for a vote.
The board would either have to change the state statute and allow itself to purchase the land directly from FMERA, or have the borough purchase the land from FMERA and then sell it to the board. A county-owned homeless shelter near the site would also need to be relocated, and the site's proximity to wetlands and a body of water would also need approvals from the DEP and CAFRA.
Board President Cullin Wible and other board members felt this process was too complicated, but there was no consensus on the board to remove the option so it remained and the board will now follow up with the borough on the feasibility of purchasing the land.
The final option was added during Wednesday's meeting and involves purchasing the old CommVault site on Crescent Place and expanding it to become the borough's new Pre-K-8 school district. There is no price yet for this option as the board-hired architect, Bill Pappalardo of JBA Architecture, has not yet explored the costs associated with acquiring and expanding the site.
The board must now review its three remaining options and ultimately pick one and send it to the New Jersey Department of Education so it can be approved and ultimately be put to a vote by residents of Oceanport and Sea Bright, which also sends its Prek-8 students to the Oceanport School District. If the vote passes, the board would bond the appropriate sum to cover the cost of the project and then go out to bid to find a qualified bidder.
BOE Administrator Dr. Joan Saylor could bond up to $32 million to cover the cost of whatever option the board ultimately chooses, but could possibly take on more debt for the project. Saylor outlined the monthly estimated cost to the owner of the average Oceanport home valued at $447,654 and the owner of the average Sea Bright home of $511,023.
For example, for a 20-year bond at an interest rate of 4 percent, a $10 million would cost the average Oceanport taxpayer an additional $19.71 per month and the average Sea Bright home owner an additional $2.41 per month. A $25 million project under the same circumstances would cost $48.26 more per month for an Oceanport resident and $5.90 more per month for a Sea Bright resident.