Chatham, NJ – The School District of the Chatham’s Board of Education met in a regular meeting tonight to discuss routine end-of-year matters. However, two issues in tonight’s meeting have been in debate for some time, health insurance premiums and school safety and student over-crowding.
On the advice Brown & Brown Benefit Advisors, Inc., the board’s insurance broker, the board voted to terminate their relationship with Horizon. Thomas K. Belding, board President stated, “Horizon was going to increase our premiums by fifteen percent while reducing some benefits. That was not acceptable, particularly in our current economic climate.” He went on to say that, “while Oxford Health Plans increase is eleven percent, we were able to keep our current level of benefits.”
The other topic of discussion at tonight’s meeting concerned the issue of what to do about the school parking lot. The student population, particularly those of the driving age will increase by about 150 students over the next three to five years. As it stands now, there will be no place for them to park. The issue encompasses three problems, those being overcrowding, student and community safety and the environment. The plot of land under debate is roughly two-thirds of an acre, to the left of the main building. What is proposed is an additional eighty-nine parking spaces.
During public comments, Chatham resident Jim Urbelis brought up the issue of the environment. “We should place more value on our environment, on open green space. If you decide to build a new parking lot, your decision is irreversible. I’ve never seen a parking lot made over in to a green space.” He went on to say, “Do a study, take your time, a year, six months, even six weeks. Start clean and do an unbiased study. But think of alternatives.”
Cathy Farnan, incoming PTO Vice-President raised the issue of safety. Lafayette is a major artery in Chatham and the “traffic is a major issue as well as the safety of the students.” She suggested there be a “police officer stationed there. The congestion and over-crowding is only going to escalate. In his response to that idea, Belding read portions of a letter sent to the board from Chatham Police Chief Paton, citing limited police officers on duty as a key issue to his department.
The board has estimated about $400,000 for the new lot to be constructed and approved advertising for bids. Contractors have twenty days to submit bids and a final vote will be taken on June 27th.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 13, at 7:30pm in the Chatham Township Municipal Building, 58 Meyersville Road.