BOE Votes to Purchase Property Next to Terrill Middle School

The board voted at the Feb. 21 meeting to purchase a nearly one acre piece property adjacent to Terrill Middle School.


A last minute addition to the business agenda at the Feb. 21 Board of Education meeting was the purchase of a piece of property directly next to Terrill Middle School for $223,000, which was passed by the board with one no vote.

The piece of land in question is directly to the right of Terrill Middle School where you would say the entrance is, Board President Trip Whitehouse said.  Currently there is a house on the nearly one acre property, which will have to be removed, according to Business Administrator Deborah Saridaki.

Whitehouse added that the contract to purchase the property is dependent on it adhering to all environmental standards.

Initially, Whitehouse said he was not in support of the purchase of the land and did not think they should be extending district funds on the land. However, he started to consider the many issues with pick-up and drop-off at Terrill and also how a few years ago the Board was looking to rent storefront space for offices.

“We don’t have a full plan yet,” he said “But there are not many lots that reside in front of current schools.”

Board member Warren McFall echoed the President’s statement by pointing out it is such a rare opportunity to have property attached to the board’s current property, especially for a very reasonable price.

Whitehouse took the time to thank Saridaki and Board Attorney Casper Bohem for their hard work, diligence and negotiating the past several weeks on the property, adding that the asking price was originally about double the $223,000.

“This has been going on with a lot of thought and negotiation the past couple weeks,” Whitehouse said.

He added that although this was a late addition to the agenda, it was something that has been in the works and heavily discussed for weeks.

The no vote on the purchase of the property came from board member Betty Anne Woerner who said she struggled with the decision for a while and has major reservations.

“I think every dollar counts,” she said. “And although this is a good deal, I think the money could be better spent.”

She added that if this was School One she would jump on the opportunity, but Terrill already has a lot of space.

“There is no doubt we can create and probably use the property,” she said. “But also we don’t need the property.”

Whitehouse responded by saying the space at Terrill is just not in the right location, it is mostly behind the building.

The board threw around several ideas for what the space could be used for such as pick-up and drop-off, expansion of facilities, board offices or extending programs.

“We don’t know what the future will bring,” Whitehouse said.

Saridaki added that following the demolition of the home, the land will sit until the board comes up with a detailed plan on how to use the property.

Builda Wall February 23, 2013 at 03:57 AM
I know I'm paranoid [looks over shoulder], but I don't believe for a second that there aren't already extensive plans for this discussed-for-months-prior-last-minute-agenda-item, just like I don't believe the Council isn't already setting up the displacement of town hall and figuring out which developers' pockets to line on Park ave.
Barney Oldfield February 23, 2013 at 05:51 PM
You're right, you are paranoid.
Joe Fanwood February 24, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Paranoia is usually the best policy when dealing with politicians, local or otherwise, I think, though I do feel Builda's off the mark about Terrill. The street by the school becomes a traffic nightmare in the morning and it would be nice if they could do something to fix it. At the same time I think there are quiet plans afoot to redo the downtown. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the insurance company reps discussed in that other thread have no connection to anyone on the council...
Michael Lewis February 25, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Having attended this meeting, the rationale behind the acquisition made a certain amount of sense although I am taking the cost portion on faith. In real estate location is everything, and the lot is strategically situated. Short-term, the acquisition allows the Board to address a real safety issue. Longer-term, the acquisition also purchases a certain amount of time and planning flexibility. It should be remembered that the towns lost quite a bit of the latter when they were blindsided by the Mt. Laurel decision after having sold off three sites sometime in the ‘80s. To the extent that the acquisition allows a more effective allocation of classroom, co-curricular and administrative space (and to possibly work with the two towns where the needs for support services such as libraries / presentation spaces overlap) on the whole - and for what it is worth - I see it as a plus.


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