Disheartened members of the Oceanport Board of Education announce that they have removed the Crescent Place property from consideration for a new district school on Feb. 21. Photo by Chris Rotolo
By Chris Rotolo |
OCEANPORT – The former Commvault building at Crescent Place, recently identified as the potential site of a new $30 million complex for students of Oceanport and Sea Bright, has been scrapped from consideration after a surprise unanimous decision by the Board of Education.
The announcement was made following a 68-minute, closed-door executive session at a packed public meeting in the Maple Place School’s library on Feb. 21. Concerned residents had come to speak out at the public hearing, filling the venue and spilling out into the lobby.
“Based upon our thorough review as a Board of Education of all aspects of this proposed project, at this point we are removing the Crescent Place property from consideration,” said Board President Michelle McMullin.
“This is not a win for our children,” McMullin added. “This means they will be in an unfit building for at least another two to three years.”
Located at 2 Crescent Place at the Monmouth Park Corporate Center, the 110,000-square-foot building was once the site of Commvault, a data protection firm that opened in Oceanport in 1996. In 2014 the operation moved to a Tinton Falls property at the former Fort Monmouth.
The board initially settled on the property at a Jan. 24 meeting, choosing the former Commvault headquarters as the best of three presented options, noting that the site offered the ability to create a more modern facility without interrupting their students’ education during the construction process, as well as ample space to expand if student enrollment increased.
Though public comments were delayed by the executive session, that did not quell discussion among the more than 120 waiting residents in the library, who voiced their concerns about student transportation, nearby flooding of the Turtle Mill Brook, contaminated soil due to the dumping and storage of chemicals by former inhabitants of the facility – including Perkin-Elmer Corp. and Interdata Inc. – and potential criminal threats.
Resident Rob Newland presented a report to the board which he said described 94 criminal acts in the past 20 months at a nearby hotel, some of which allegedly occurred during school hours and when extracurricular activities would be taking place. The transgressions, he said, included drug overdoses, weapons discharge, theft and disorderly persons offenses.
Board of Education member Meghan Walker said she was displeased that Commvault was no longer an option.
“I don’t care what you think of me for saying this, but I don’t think this is the right decision,” Walker said to those on hand. “I whole-heartedly believed in Crescent Place. There wasn’t anything that was submitted to us that we did not investigate, and came up with answers that satisfied me.”
“I’m not an expert on crime statistics but the people we consulted are. Same with the flooding, same with busing, same with everything else,” Walker added. “It breaks my heart to take this off the table, because in my heart I know it was the most fiscally responsible and forward-looking thing to do. It allowed for expansion. It solved all of our problems as it pertained to parking and ballfields, ADA compliance, fire safety, intruder protection. All of it would have been solved for every student in this district.”
The Crescent Place project would have been financed through a $30 million bond over a 30-year period. It was tentatively planned to be on the ballot for a special referendum on Oct. 2, and would have raised taxes significantly for Oceanport residents, and would also have subjected Sea Bright residents to a slight hike.
For the past three years, the Board of Education has researched options to upgrade its two schools – Wolf Hill Elementary School and Maple Place School – which serve kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade, respectively.
During the proposal presentation on Jan. 24, it was revealed that Wolf Hill Elementary – which is 107 years old – and Maple Place School – which was built in 1966 – both lacked fire-prevention sprinkler systems, as well as intruder protective entrances approved by the Department of Homeland Security, and ADA-compliant features, providing limited security and accessibility to their students.
Annamarie Ippolito is a resident and teacher at Wolf Hill Elementary School who supported the board’s decision, and said, despite the conditions of the facilities, she’s ready to continue the search for another option.
“Now we do start over and I will sit in that building now for another two years until we find another solution,” Ippolito said. “And again, I ask that you continue to put the students first, as you have. And I thank you for that.”
With the former Commvault site now off the table, the board may search for new options, or revisit remaining proposals, one of which included the construction of a brand new Wolf Hill Elementary School next to the current facility at 29 Wolfhill Ave., while making short-term upgrades to Maple Place School that would call for future funding.
A second option was to build a two-story structure at Fort Monmouth for pre-K through eighth-grade students, but was shelved because of uncertainties surrounding the bidding process through the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority.
“I appreciate that you took into consideration what we had to say, what everyone had to say, and made a decision based on it,” resident Kim Vaughan said to the board. “I think that we have a very good momentum going now. Everyone in our town is engaged. Everyone wants a new school. And now you have us at your disposal. Use us. We will help you.”
This article was first published in the March 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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