2007-10-25 / Front Page

Planned school building shifted to avoid dig site

Cost of redesign incorporated into Dec. referendum
BY JESSICA SMITH Staff Writer

The Monroe Board of Education has devised a way to bypass its land conundrum at the proposed site for a new high school.

The board voted on Oct. 17 to move the footprint of the school so that it will not have to wait for the state to release 3.6 acres of the original 35-acre site in Thompson Park.

"I feel that it's a win-win situation for everybody," board President Kathy Kolupanowich said.

Due to archaeologists' findings on the 3.6 acres, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), recommended a phase three archaeological survey there, in order to determine the historical significance of the site. A buffer zone consisting of about 0.86 acres to protect that portion of the site was also required.

Kolupanowich said the 3.6 acres, which SHPO has named the Thompson Park Historic Site, will likely be kept and protected by the DEP.

Archaeological studies on the entirety of the proposed school site became necessary when some suggested that the Leni Lenape Bethel Mission Settlement, which dates back to 1746, had once stood there.

Monitoring by an archaeologist will be required during construction of the high school on the remaining 30.54 acres, but Kolupanowich said the prospect of any findings there does not present a major concern.

"If they felt that it was a major issue, they would have not released the land," she said.

The board has requested a redesigned plan from architect Jim Morton, of New Brunswick-based Design Ideas Group, at a cost of $170,000. Morton is expected to present the new plan, along with a preliminary budget, at the board's Nov. 14 meeting.

"There is a cost, but we already incorporated the $825,000 for the phase III [archeological study] into the referendum," Kolupanowich said. "So it represents a cost-savings for the board of education."

A Dec. 11 referendum will ask voters to approve an additional $41.9 million to build the new school. In 2003, residents approved $82.9 million to build the school, but as the project was delayed by delayed approvals, litigation and land issues, costs rose.

According to Kolupanowich, if the referendum passes, the board will be on target with its plans to go out to bid in January and award bids in March, to see the new high school built and functional by September 2011.

Changes brought about by the redesign will include a change in detention basins to be supplemented by underground storm water storage, and the elimination of an athletic field.

"I don't think [the field] is a major concern," Kolupanowich said. "I don't think was one of those things that was necessary to be built."

The new design, which must be approved by Freehold Soil Conservation, is expected to be submitted by early January, according to board member Rita Ostrager.

"We all agree that this was a great way to get the school built," Kolupanowich said.

Not every board member agreed. Board veteran Marvin Braverman cast the one dissenting vote.

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