School construction postponed

UPPER FREEHOLD – Ground-breaking for the new middle school on Ellisdale Road will not take place in April as planned.

At the March 15 Board of Education meeting, interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Smith said he does not know when construction on the 46-acre parcel will begin.

Smith said the delay is due to planned environmental remediation, as the board must clean up traces of the historic pesticides arsenic and dieldrin found on the tract.

The board purchased the tract, which was formerly a farm, from Crosswicks Creek Farm for $2.6 million. It wants the school to be up and running by September 2007.

Smith said the school district must have a remediation plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) before the parcel can be cleaned up.

Smith said that once the plan is approved by the DEP, the school will get bid specifications for the work and take the lowest bid.

Board of Education President Jeanette Bressi said the remediation costs are within the overall budget for the $38.9 million school referendum, which passed in 2004.

Upper Freehold resident Gary Rasor asked about the time frame for the cleanup.

“Our money will disappear with inflation and the price of steel,” Rasor said. “We’ll end up with a 15- to 20-percent shortfall.”

Smith said he could not yet share the time frame with the public since it is related to contracts.

At a township Planning Board meeting held in October, the school’s engineer, Frank Monte, described the contamination as “minor.” However, the school will not be built on the contaminated area of the property.

– Jane Meggit