Bonds to boost Salem County school safety updates approved

Published: Sunday, March 20, 2011
By Phil Dunn

SALEM - The Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders has approved two bonds that will help fund safety updates at both the Salem County Vocational School and Salem Community College. Improved facilities in both safety plans were designed by Garrison Architects of Marlton.

The freeholders slated $1.7 million in a school bond for the vo-tech and then $2.1 million for SCC by way of a Chapter 12 bond. The motion was approved on a 7-0 vote.

"The Board of Chosen Freeholders voted for a resolution which authorizes the Board of School Estimates for the community college and vo-tech to bond for safety-related projects, said Freeholder Director Lee Ware. "As an educator of 38 years, I am a big proponent of supporting our educational institutions."

Ware said in these tough economic times it is important to fund the county's "needs" not the "wants."

"While the college and vo-tech submitted projects to the Board which varied from electrical upgrades to facility expansion, our resolution for bonding seeks to address those areas which are necessary to ensure the safety of our students," said Ware.

He noted that 50 percent of the bond for the college will be reimbursed by the state, while the vo-tech bond will be reimbursed at approximately 34 percent.

"The college appreciates the Board of Chosen Freeholders support of our capital needs request," said Salem Community College President Dr. Peter Contini. "Given the amount allocated, the college will establish priorities to address the identified areas of need with Americans With Disabilities Act compliance and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical capacity and fire protection."

The vo-tech will use a majority of the funding to update electrical systems at the district. Though there was some confusion into the timing of the bond proposal, Freeholder Julie Action said she voted "yes" to the bond because safety upgrades to the vo-tech and the community college are a must to keep the students safe.

"We were taken by surprise, especially since we did not have a resolution to look at in front of us," said Acton. "But safety is always the highest priority for the board."

In prior discussions, the freeholders considered the idea of putting of the school bonding off until 2012. They would have been able to split the bond because the county and the schools run on different fiscal years.

Salem Community College and the vo-tech run on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year. The county runs on a calendar fiscal year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31

Clerk of the Board Earl Gage said since the county is looking to stand within a $10 million cap for the bonding amount in 2011 they can move forward with the bond if all parties agree.

The county has already issued a $6.3 million bond for the renovations to the recently purchased Five Star Plaza which will be used for county office space.

"We believe that our action was prudent considering our responsibilities for the safety of our students and our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer," said Ware.

A vote is expected to be held by both the college's and vo-tech's School Board of Estimates by April 9.


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