School Board Taps Local Municipal Engineer for LBI Schools Assessment

Mar 21, 2018
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education unanimously voted earlier this week to retain Frank Little, of Owen, Little and Associates in Beachwood, charging him with updating the April 2015 report that ultimately played a role in the decision to go out to referendum last fall. Little coordinated the structural review, performed by Harrison-Hamnett PC of Pennington, of both the LBI Grade School and the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School.

The decision to move forward with Little comes nearly six months after voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City rejected an $18.4 million referendum built around expanding and renovating the E.J. School so the district could consolidate nearly 230 students into the school beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

After the meeting, board President James Donahower said retaining Little has no impact on the district’s contract with DiCara Rubino of Wayne, architect of the school project that voters rejected.

“We’re focused on the assessment,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Little appeared publicly before the board to address any questions regarding the April 2015 report, how he would oversee revising it, and his qualifications for handling such an assignment.

Little doesn’t foresee any major changes to the report, “unless something has already been updated and needs to come off the list,” Little told the board at its March 19 meeting in the media center of the LBI School, the first meeting in that building since the board agreed to move there last month. “We went over both schools thoroughly.”

Little said he would bring the same team of experts to the table to update their portions of the report, including an electrical, mechanical and structural engineer. He also used a roofing expert.

One of the biggest issues is water under the LBI School, which is located between 19th and 20th streets in Ship Bottom. Little said he would recommend bringing sump pumps in to remove the water.

“The water table has not gone down,” Little noted, adding it is one of the problems with the beams. On the south side of the school, the 20th street wing, some of the work underneath the building was repaired, he said. The work was done in the early 2000s, but someone made a decision not to fix all of the issues at that time, he said.

The LBI School, built with a structural steel roof framing that consists of open web steel joists, steel beams supporting the metal roof deck and steel columns, underwent a shoring-up project in 2015. The $287,000 project was based on plans prepared by Harrison-Hamnett, PC and recommended in a report compiled by Little, the engineer for all the Island municipalities, following a study of the two schools. That report estimated these temporary repairs at $75,000. Shore Connection, though, as the board pointed out at the time, was the only bidder through two bid periods.

“I heard you had issues with bidders,” Little said, noting the district’s current architect, DiCara Rubino, handled the bid package for the project. “It was after (Superstorm) Sandy.”

In anticipation of being questioned about the cost of updating the 2015 report, he reached out  to the professionals he initially worked with for a cost estimate for amending their section of the assessment. The only estimate Little received prior to the board meeting Monday night was for roughly $4,500 from the structural engineer. Using that figure as a starting point, an amended report could run the district somewhere in the $25,000 range. Contract cost wasn’t discussed during the public portion of the meeting since it is considered executive session material.

Whatever the findings are, Little said, how the board members proceed is up to them. Their options, he said, are to bid the work and have it done all at once or do it over time. In terms of financing any work, he told the board, the state has a larger pot of money to aid rehab projects rather than new construction.

In related news, board Vice President Colette Southwick reported the district’s two schools would be undergoing air quality testing while the students are on spring break.

Board member Georgene Hartmann was absent from the meeting, as was business administrator Megan Gally, who resigned her post effective April 12. The district accepted applications for her position until March 1 and will begin the process of interviewing potential replacements shortly.

— Gina Scala

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