School officials and city may differ on pool plan

By carolyn o

By carolyn o’connell
Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH—The source of funding is the only item that needs to be finalized in order to build the aquatic center on lower Broadway. But the lack of funding may ultimately mean the facility ends up in another part of the city and limits how it is used.

The project, a collaboration between the Board of Education and the city, is estimated to cost between $5 million and $10 million. It is planned for Liberty Street between Monmouth and Union avenues.

The vision of the governing body and the school board is to create a facility for use by the entire community as well as to create a regional center for swimming competitions.

The city recently completed its end of the deal by acquiring all the properties, which will be turned over to the school district. Most of the properties were acquired through negotiated purchases, but a few were acquired through condemnation proceedings, according to City Attorney James Aaron, a partner in the Ocean Township law firm of Ansell Zaro Grimm and Aaron.

Earlier in the year, the governing body approved a bond ordinance for $2.4 million to pay for the acquisition of properties.

At some point in the future, the city will be given the property of the current Gregory School on Seventh Avenue as a tradeoff for the Liberty Street properties, said Superintendent of Schools Joseph M. Ferraina.

While the design for the pool is not yet set, the city and school district may end up with different visions for the facility. For its part, the school district is planning to build the best facility it can afford, and the limits of its funding may dictate the construction of a facility that does not accommodate all the city’s wishes. Initially officials with both the district and the city were planning a 50-meter pool. The city is seeking a pool of that size because it views it as the best for community uses. However, school officials have said their budget for the project may mandate construction of a 25-meter pool that will be adequate for its needs.

But in recent negotiations with the school board, Mayor Adam Schneider said the agreement with the school district still needs to be finalized, "but the issue has been raised that if the smaller pool is built, it may be moved closer to the high school."

Ferraina said the high school property would not be an option. He said the 25-meter pool would still be a very usable pool for the community and would still be located in the sector, although there have been discussions that a smaller pool, which would be primarily used by students, could be built at the A.A. Anastasia School on Morris Avenue or the Elberon School on Park Avenue.

"But moving the pool to either one of those schools would not really allow enough room," Ferraina said.

"We did make a sizable contribution," Schneider said in reference to the land the city is donating for the aquatic center. "If the bigger pool can’t be built and the pool is moved, then we will deal with it."

According to Schneider, developers have expressed interest in the area planned for the center, but he would not elaborate on what those ideas are.

"Our goal is to go with the 50-meter pool if it comes to the right amount," Ferraina said.

He said the school district has $3.5 million being carried as surplus, and the state has approved carrying that money over into this year’s budget where it can be used for construction of the aquatic center.

Specifications for the bids will be ready by March 15, and bids are to be awarded April 30.