LIVINGSTON, NJ – One component of the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) $1.2 million budget, approved this April, continues to draw vocal Livingston residents who stand in communal opposition to the proposed project, to the LBOE meetings.
In response to the recommendations of two safety studies conducted by the Department of Education and an unnamed but independent third party contractor, the LBOE has been searching for an optimal site that can be used for parking Livingston school buses in one location, as opposed to the three locations where they currently reside. After extensive research, the LBOE proposal on the table suggests that a $300,000 parking structure, adjacent to the current Administrative Building at 11 Foxcroft Drive, be erected.
According to the LBOE, the proposed parking lot offers the added benefit of bringing the administrative offices into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as the structure would include both a new entranceway and handicapped parking.
Responding to complaints previously lodged by residents in the neighboring area, Steven Robinson, school business administrator and board secretary, opened the discussion by addressing these concerns at Monday’s LBOE meeting. Although the LBOE has been working with the Township of Livingston to arrive at a new parking solution for several years, the LBOE was recently informed that no township land is available for the schools to build upon.
Robinson and his team have explored the feasibility of other options suggested by residents, such as utilizing the land on Northfield Avenue on which the annual Kiwanis Carnival is held (which, at a minimum, would involve zoning and complex traffic issues) or existing parking space at the Livingston Mall (which would require the space to be fenced, security cameras and electric charging stations for buses to be added, and snow-removal responsibilities to be assumed, all of which would heighten the cost for the project).
Robinson assured residents that essential tree removal needed to clear space for the project would primarily affect dead trees and would only carve into two of the fifteen acres in question, leaving plenty of land accessible to area wildlife.
Architect Anthony Gianforcaro, owner of Gianforcaro Architects, Engineers & Planners, who is designing the project, was also on hand to answer more specific questions regarding the plans. According to Gianforcaro, an extensive analysis was run through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) software that showed, across several-hundred different scenarios used, that additional pollution that might be caused due to increased bus traffic in the area was non-hazardous and well within EPA guidelines.
Lights from the parking lot are not expected to cause issues for local residents, he said, as they will point down towards the blacktop. Additionally, residents who cited anticipated flooding from water run-off as a potential issue were told that all water run-off will flow directly into a detention basin.
Those fearing that the proposed lot would provide a place for teens to congregate and potentially do damage to buses or property were assured that strategically placed security cameras should act as a sufficient deterrent.
Opening the floor to further comment from residents of Wynwood Drive, where bus traffic would be routed through, over to Foxcroft and back onto Hillside Avenue, were cautioned by LBOE President Ronnie Konner, that the board was “not [there] to have a debate.”
“We’re here to hear you,” she said. “We will not be taking any action tonight.”
Concerns voiced by Heritage Middle School neighbors included: an increase in an already significant school-time traffic flow, making it more difficult for residents to exit their driveways; an increase in speeding buses; an increase in emissions from idling buses; and a potential decrease in property values. An addition concern was providing a potential breeding ground for vandalism and littering.
Residents asked the LBOE to continue exploring alternatives to the addition at 11 Foxcroft.
“On Friday, we opened bids,” said Robinson. “I made it clear that we have a budget of $1.2 million and, while the bids came in under that number, they didn’t come in far enough under—so I will be asking the board at the next meeting to reject the bids so that we can scale down the project a little bit and do it at a budget I feel more comfortable with. And then we will go out shortly after that for re-bids.”
The LBOE resolved to move forward by requesting a set of new bids that reflects the existing project, a partial project focused only on the ADA compliance issues, and a version of the project that includes the construction of the smaller parking lot with infrastructure built in so that, should expansion become feasible at a later date, the infrastructure already exists to support that expansion.
The LBOE will continue to cover this topic at future meetings.