Red Bank Commission To Vote Oct. 30 On Whether To Keep Old High School Buildings

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Red Bank Commission will vote Oct. 30 at the 7 p.m. meeting on whether to keep either the old gym or old auditorium (or both) at the old Red Bank High School (current middle school) on Dayton Boulevard.

Commissioners said they encourage citizens to attend the meeting and give their input. A decision needs to be made by Nov. 1, it was stated.

The school, parts of which were erected in 1938, is slated to be torn down and the site abated and cleared under a contract with the county schools. A new middle school is nearing completion behind the current high school.

Architect Vance Travis, a Red Bank High graduate, had urged the commission to consider using the old buildings, including converting the gym to a city hall.

But Mayor Monty Millard said both buildings "are in horrible condition and the cost to fix them up is virtually unknown."

He said the city has paid for and received plans for a new 6,000-square-foot city hall next to the current one. He said the police department would occupy the entirety of current city hall, which is 45 years old. 

Outgoing Commissioner Ruth Jeno said the future of Red Bank depends on the development of the old high school tract, including getting it back on the tax rolls. She said developers she has talked to would not be interested in the rest of the property if the old school buildings stay.

She said, "We need to look at the bottom line. The bottom line is we can't afford it."

Interim City Manager John Alexander said much of the city's reserve fund was used in the paving program, and there is not enough available for a major new project.

Vice Mayor John Roberts said one option is keeping one or both the old school buildings and fixing them up over several years time. He said that was only a suggestion, but he said there should be "no rush to sell the property until we take the time to get it right."

Commissioner Floy Pierce said she was concerned that a strip mall might wind up on the property, then leave it vacant. She said it is "the center of the community."

Commissioner Ken Welch said if there is "overwhelming support" from residents for keeping the buildings the commission would consider their wishes. 

Another concern of Mayor Millard was asbestos in the buildings. City Attorney Arnie Stulce said the county may not object to keeping some of the buildings standing, but would not be likely to take the asbestos out of the buildings as would happen if they were torn down.

In another matter, Steve Jan got a roomful of opposition to a plan to change the zoning to duplex on residences at 3813 Pickering Ave. and 4506 Crerar St.

The Regional Planning Agency recommended approval for the Pickering Avenue change, saying there were duplexes nearby. But the RPA recommended against the Crerar Street change.

The Red Bank Planning Commission recommended denial on both requests.

Mr. Jan, upon hearing the RPA recommendation, withdrew the Crerar Street application. He said he will convert that residence to single-family.

The commission 5-0 against his Pickering Avenue request.

Bill Smith, who lives on one side of the Pickering Avenue property, said it had been rented to "trash" and "drunks" by Mr. Jan for many years.  Carol Winton, who lives on the other side, said it had been a nightmare for her as well. She told of seeing large groups in the front yard cussing and slugging one another and of witnessing late-night drug transactions.

Commissioners said they had gotten numerous complaints from citizens about the current paving job on side streets.

Public Works Administrator Tim Thornbury asked residents to be patient. He said what they are seeing is just the first step - the "leveling" process. He said the paving crews have started coming back through putting down the top layer of paving.

Red Bank Fire Chief Mark Mathews said the Halloween Bash, a block party that attracts some 2,000 youngsters, is again planned at the fire station on Dayton Boulevard. 


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