Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trenton SDA projects to get funding.

Quasi good news today. The School Development Authority has made public its implementation schedule for the next round of funding. Trenton gets three schools out of it: Trenton Central High School, the Roebling School, and an Early Childhood Center. In total estimated cost, the city is looking at around $250,000,000 in facilities improvements. That should be great news for the city.

Unfortunately, the same document also indicates that both Roebling and the High School will need additional DOE approvals (only three school on the 53 project list need these additional approvals) and will have an estimated construction start date of Summer 2010, roughly two years from now. My guesstimate is that the schools could be occupied by the Fall of 2012 at the earliest, given the scale of the projects. On top of that, these schools are 36th and 39th in line on a list of 53 total Projects.

To its credit, the SDA has made clear that additional stashes of money will be reserved for unforseen issues, price escalation etc. to the tune of $300,000,000 or 10% of the allocated budget. It is, of course, impossible to predict what is going to happen to construction prices in the next 5-6 years. The free market is the only sure fire way of determining the actual price of a project- especially in today's rapidly escalating construction market. Last week, a builder informed me that steel prices rose 15% in a single day. Likewise, oil based materials such as asphalt and some types of roofing and insulation are skyrocketing, just like our gas prices. Hopefully things calm down, but if they don't, there is a chance that the reserve amount will not be enough to cover the costs of this escalation. If that happens, there is another chance that history will repeat itself and Trentonians will again be asking "who took our money?"

What does this mean? Please attend our city's Facility Advisory Board meetings, learn more about these incredibly large, important projects. And I would advise everyone involved to try to push hard to make sure these projects happen sooner rather than later- if only to make sure the State has committed funds for Trenton's 3,000 High School students. We should also try to make sure that regardless of the project, the facilities will be assets to the city as a whole, that the schools will be not just be adequate, but that they will be great places to learn and spend the better part of one's youth in. As tax-paying residents, it is our right to reasonably push the envelope and try to make sure that these enormous expenditures go to a great cause that will benefit the city for generations to come...

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About Me

In 1998, I packed up an old Civic with all of my belongings and made a drive from Lubbock, TX to New Jersey. The second day in Jersey, someone at Princeton told me: "hey- you're an architect? Check out Trenton sometime". I found a dilapidated house in Mill Hill and renovated it with my wife for a couple of years. We were blessed with a baby girl four years ago who has helped us to experience the city in wholly new ways! I'm an architect with a specialization in master planning, and am currently a member of the Trenton Planning Board.