Pre-referendum promises revisited at board meeting

Although permits are not expedited, land purchase may be


ALLENTOWN – An Upper Freehold resident questioned why the Board of Education didn’t have a middle school construction update on its Nov. 19 agenda.

Resident Bryan Scheff said he thought the Upper Freehold Regional School District should provide an update on the middle school permitting and construction process at every board meeting.

Voters in the April 17 Board of Education election chose to support a $13.2 million referendum to fund the completion of the new middle school project on a Breza Road site instead of the Ellisdale Road location voters approved for the project in 2004. The Ellisdale Road site had soil remediation and wastewater issues.

When board officials discussed the second referendum earlier this year, according to Scheff, they said that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would fast-track a Breza Road site project.

Scheff said officials had also stated that the school district could break ground at the new site within 90 days after the passage of the second referendum. Noting that twice that amount of time has passed, Scheff asked about the school’s current timeline and how it compares to the original schedule.

Superintendent of Schools Richard Fitzpatrick said the board’s Web site provides a construction update.

“I would love if

the DEP could fasttrack it faster, but the reality is that permits take ‘x’ number of months,” he said.

The district has made all necessary submittals to the DEP, although one was returned, Fitzpatrick said. Additional information was added to the returned submission and the district sent it back, Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said that trucks have been to the site for borings and well drillings. He added that a geothermal well should be drilled there this week. The results of the geothermal well drilling will decide the number and size of the wells needed at the site for the school’s heating system, he said.

“The bottom line – permits that have to be issued have to be issued,” Fitzpatrick said. “We can’t put a shovel in the ground until they’re done.”

Fitzpatrick said the board is looking at multiple ways of handling the site’s wastewater and that it has asked the mayor of Allentown to look into the option of having the school tap into the Allentown wastewater facility.

“That would eliminate a lot of permitting that would really fast-track this,” he said.

If the school district does not have the option of tapping into the existing wastewater facility, it will have to build its own wastewater facility and disposal bed at the site.

Fitzpatrick said the wastewater issue is holding up the board’s purchase of the Breza Road land.

“It’s all out of our control,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have to wait until the state gives us their responses.”

While the board’s original decision was not to purchase the land until it has all the necessary construction permits, landowner Neil Van Cleef has asked if the board could move the process along more quickly, according to board President Joseph Stampe.

Stampe asked for the board’s permission to speak to its land use attorney regarding the purchase of the 118-acre Breza Road property. He said he could meet with the attorney to discuss the pros and cons of expediting the purchase and report his findings to the board in closed session Dec. 5. Land acquisition is considered a matter for executive session.

The board also expects a representative from Allentown to appear at its Dec. 5 meeting to talk about whether using the Allentown wastewater plant for the Breza Road site is feasible. According to Fitzpatrick, Allentown’s engineer had previously sent a letter to the school district stating that the district could potentially save $1.5 million by hooking the site into the borough’s treatment plant instead of developing its own plant.

Fitzpatrick said that the treatment of wastewater and other environmental issues at the site are “really significant.”

“Permitting is a long, arduous process, and we are doing our best,” he said.

Although a document submitted to the Upper Freehold Township Committee on Oct. 4 stated that the district would submit an application for a New Jersey Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit for the project on Oct. 18, board member Bill Borkowski, the liaison for the middle school construction project, said the NJPDES application will be submitted on Nov. 21.

Borkowski said the district expects to get Treatment Works Approval (TWA) after it gets NJPDES approval. He said that construction bids cannot be sent out until the TWA is received.

The project bids are scheduled to go out in March, according to Borkowski, and the bids will be awarded in June. He said there is a 60-day lag between putting out the bids and their acceptance.