13 tri-county school districts get state aid for projects

By BARBARA S. ROTHSCHILD o Courier-Post Staff o May 25, 2010

Five Burlington County school districts and eight in Camden County are among 59 in New Jersey awarded Regular Operating District (ROD) grant funding, it was announced Monday.

The grants will help fund 142 facilities projects at 111 schools, New Jersey Schools Development Authority CEO Marc Larkins and Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler announced.

Funding for the program was made available from the sale of $500 million in bonds by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The program advances Gov. Chris Christie's commitment to provide exemplary learning facilities in a fiscally responsible manner, according to SDA spokesman Larry Hanover and DOE spokesman Alan Guenther.

For some districts hurt by state funding cuts in recent months, the grant money makes projects possible that otherwise would likely have been put on hold.

"This is great news," Cherry Hill district spokeswoman Susan Bastnagel said. The district has been awarded grant money for roof restoration at Henry C. Beck Middle School -- a project estimated at $802,200 -- and to replace three large HVAC system units at Beck, estimated at $724,024. The SDA will pick up 40 percent of the tab. The district's share, $481,320 for the roof and $434,414 for the HVAC, will come out of the 2010-11 capital outlay budget. The projects are in the design phase and must go out for bid. The district hopes to do the work over the summer but expects some of it to carry over to the fall, Bastnagel said.

In Southampton, Superintendent Michael Harris was happy to hear that three projects had been approved for grants, including one that was nearly completed last summer at School No. 2. There, old-fashioned cafeteria tables stored inside the walls have been replaced with safer tables kept in a newly constructed storage area when not in use. The approximate cost of $89,214 includes a 60 percent local share of $53,528 and a $35,686
"We applied last spring and were approved in the summer, but with everything going on there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether there would be any funding," Harris said. Bids will now go out for the other two projects.

Although grants were announced Monday for four projects at the Eastern Regional High Schools District in Voorhees, Business Administrator Fred Wright said three of the projects are complete. They include replacement of air conditioning and windows at the intermediate high school -- costing $298,900 and $97,600, with 40 percent picked up by the SDA -- and replacement of gym bleachers in the high school at a cost of $220,858, also with a 40 percent state share. The fourth project, replacing boiler room lighting at the high school, will be done this summer. Although the state will pick up 40 percent of the cost, the district has decided to do the work itself to keep costs down, Wright said. The estimated cost had been $24,400.

Other Burlington County districts awarded grants Monday are Burlington Township, for projects at Fountain Woods Elementary School and Burlington Township High School; Medford, for a project at Cranberry Pines Elementary School; Moorestown, for projects designed by Garrison Architects at South Valley Elementary School, William Allen Middle School and Moorestown High School; and New Hanover, for two projects at New Hanover Elementary School.

In Camden County, other districts with SDA grants with design by Garrison Architects are Bellmawr, for a project at Bellmawr Park Elementary School; Black Horse Pike Regional, for two projects at Highland High School in Gloucester Township; Runnemede, for projects at Mary E. Volz, Downing and Bingham elementary schools; Winslow, for projects at Winslow Township Middle School and High School. Also in Camden County are Pine Hill, for projects at John Glenn and Albert M. Bean elementary schools;and Barrington, for projects at Avon and Woodland elementary schools;

No grants were awarded in Gloucester County.

Schundler said the renewed funding for school construction projects would help ensure safe learning environments. The announced grants represent a $36.9 million state investment, leveraging $77.5 million in total capital investment. The SDA has 1,004 ongoing grant projects in the RODs, 50 projects in SDA districts in various developmental phases, 12 projects already under construction and 134 emergent projects addressing
health-and-safety issues across the state.

Since its 2001 inception, New Jersey's school construction program has completed 621 projects in SDA districts. In addition to building 54 schools, the program has provided funding for 45 extensive additions, renovations and/or rehabilitations, and more than 500 other projects.

The program also has provided more than 3,000 grants to RODs, totaling more than $2.3 billion. Including contributions from local school districts, these grants have leveraged projects estimated at $7.4 billion overall.

The SDA will continue to work with school districts to execute additional grants, Hanover said.


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