Cape Gazette
http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/1101422

Cape selects site for new school

Purchase must be approved by voters at referendum
By Melissa Steele | Jan 13, 2014
Photo by: Melissa Steele An open field across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School is slated to become the site of a new elementary school if voters agree to it.

The Cape Henlopen school board Jan. 9 unanimously approved the purchase of a parcel of land across from Beacon Middle School, culminating months of research on possible sites and negotiations over price.

“We have been discussing this for quite a long time. Been in negotiations for a couple of months now,” said Superintendent Robert Fulton. “This is a very exciting time. Now we'll move forward.”

Fulton said the purchase price is not finalized because all details of the agreement are not yet in place.

“We will release the terms of the agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

Fulton said board members discussed traffic concerns at the roughly 25-acre site they chose and at a second parcel off of Beaver Dam Road.

“We had many discussions related to traffic for both sites, but in the end I feel we have a great property for a new elementary school,” he said.

Board members agreed and thanked Director of Administrative Services Brian Bassett for all the work he has done – and will continue to do so – on the new school.

“You've done an absolutely great job,” said board Vice President Roni Posner.

“Brian went over and beyond the call of duty in preparing the board for this,” said board member Jen Burton.

Board members Burton, Andy Lewis and Sara Wilkinson, President Spencer Brittingham and Vice President Posner voted in favor of the parcel of land on John J. Williams Highway, Dorman Farm Lane and Mulberry Knoll Road. The land is owned by J.G. Townsend Inc. Board member Sandi Minard recused herself from the property acquisition process months ago to avoid a possible conflict of interest because she works for Jack Lingo Realtor, which has connections to the Townsend family. Board member Noble Prettyman was absent.

Brittingham said agreeing on the property purchase was one thing, convincing the public to pay for a new school through referendum may be another.

“We're going into a testy time now,” he said.

The board approved the purchase contingent on future voter approval of a plan to build a new school. Early estimates had put the total project, which includes additional classrooms at the middle schools, at about $30 million. Because the state approved the need for the project, state taxpayers would pay about $20 million in a 60/40 split of total costs. Local taxpayers would pay about $10 million for the project.

This price includes money for the land, new school costs and classroom additions at the two middle schools – six Sussex Consortium classrooms and six regular classrooms at Beacon Middle School and six regular classrooms at Mariner Middle School.

Final cost estimates will be released soon, said Fulton said.

"We're really looking forward to the next couple of months," he said. "We're excited about this ... it's really good stuff."

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