By Jane Primerano
Morris Plains residents overwhelmingly supported two referenda for building improvements to the two public schools in the borough.
The two ballot questions were for major improvements to the schools for different reasons. A question seeking $5.21 million to upgrade energy efficiency and other issues was passed by a 670 to 246 margin. The second sought $1.03 million to bring Americans with Disabilities Act compliance to the auditorium at Borough School.
“We put a lot of energy into publicizing the referenda,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Maire said. He said he was happy with the overwhelming support of the voters.
The need for ADA compliance for the auditorium kicked in when it was found a large number of the seats needed to be replaced, the superintendent explained. So many are broken the district will replace all of them on the main level, Maire said. The auditorium in the 1923 building seats 400.
“We are building several platforms,” Maire said, noting these will make it easier for people in wheelchairs or with other special equipment to access the main seating area which now is totally sloped. Several seats will be removed. He said the balcony seating will be refurbished and a new façade will be added.
A new wall and ceiling will help with acoustics in the auditorium, Maire said, as well as new lighting and a new stage curtain.
The auditorium project will be done over the summer of 2017, he said, noting that isn’t a project that can be done during the school year.
Other projects in Borough School will be replacement of all of the windows, some of which date back to the 1950s and earlier. In addition, all classroom lights will be replaced with LEDs for an expected reduction of energy costs of 50 percent, about $75,000 annually.
Borough School will also see new hallway flooring and the replacement of part of the roof and of the metal exterior doors that are rusted and leaking in spots.
Mountain Way School, the district’s primary-grade building, which is much newer than Borough School will get a heating upgrade and some new windows and lights.
Maire has met with the architect from Settembrino Associates of Red Bank and hopes to start ordering replacement items soon. Some of the work can be done during the school year and Maire hopes to start before the end of this term, he said.
About 40 percent of the costs will be borne by the state, leaving a $3.72 million impact on the taxpayers for a tax increase of about $130 on a home assessed at $450,000.
Maier, who has been with the district for four years, said he brought the campaign for the referendum to the public, meeting with the Republican and Democratic clubs, the senior citizens group and the Rotary Club among others. Facebook and Twitter were also pressed into service. Maire said.
“It was a great opportunity to share what we are doing,” the superintendent said.