The proposed $16.8 million purchase of the Bancroft property on Kings Highway was well received by the public at the joint meeting of the Board of Education and borough commissioners.
No action was taken at the Wednesday, July 18 meeting, though action on the letter of intent was anticipated at the Monday, July 23 commissioners’ meeting as well as at the upcoming Tuesday, July 31 Board of Education meeting.
“This is a controversial issue. We understand that,” said Board President Steve Weinstein.
A referendum will be needed for bonds to be released for the purchase of the property, he said, and officials are now trying to move forward with addressing residents’ concerns.
The referendum is slated to be held on Jan. 22, 2013.
This is a democratic process, said Weinstein.
“You have the right to vote against it,” he said. “You have the right to campaign against it.”
Prior to the public vote, many steps have to be taken to test the grounds, including an appraisal. The New Jersey Department of Education has to give its approval to move forward as well.
According to Weinstein, if residents vote in favor of the purchase, current buildings will be demolished with the exception of the historic structures. A turf field will be created and the high school football field will be converted to turf. The COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) obligations will be met. There will be open space on the east side and additional parking spaces.
Haddonfield School District Superintendent Richard Perry said that the purchase would be a crossroads in the borough.
“We’ve very concerned about being landlocked,” he said of the growth of the schools, which have showed a steady increase in enrollment in recent years.
The town, which is coming up on its tricentennial, has made many difficult decisions in the past, he said. This purchase will affect the community for generations to come.
“We have a responsibility to set what’s going to happen in the future,” he said.
Resident John Stokes congratulated officials for their hands in the approximately seven-year process and said he encouraged that housing is still listed on the proposal.
“I wish you good luck and I look forward to the next few months,” said Stokes.
Several residents stood to voice their concerns about the turf fields, asking why it was necessary to be included. Many suggested that the turf might be a deal-breaker in the referendum.
“Get it out of there,” said resident John Moscatelli, who otherwise thought the proposal was a step in the right direction.
Pamela Fisk believes that it’s important to attain the property for the community, but also agreed that it was necessary to remove the turf fields from the equation.
Officials said annual turf maintenance would range from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on if a groomer and tractor is purchased or if a maintenance company is hired.
Turf fields have a lifespan of eight to 10 years.
A PDF of the proposal can be read by visiting www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us. The presentation includes a site plan.