Board Assists Historical Society

Douglas McKaernan makes a point as Kevin Pollison and Karen Smith listen at the Sparta Board of Education meeting. Credits: By Jane Primerano
Board member Kim Yeomans looks for a policy point duirng the Sparta Board of Education meeting. Credits: By Jane Primerano

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, NJ - The Board of Education agreed to share the cost of a survey of the VanKirk property with the Sparta Historical Society.

Ed Fritsch, society president, explained to the board the survey cost about $3,000 in engineering fees, and $2,000 in legal fees, even though both the surveyor and attorney gave the society a break on the cost.

He attended the work session on Monday, May 13, to speak to the board.

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Fritsch said he searched township and Sussex County records and could not find a survey that should have been done when the township acquired the property. Board Business Administrator Linda Alvarez confirmed she could not locate it either.

The board voted to pay the historical society $2,500. “That’s $2,499,” Alvarez said. "You owe us one dollar.”

She was referring to the amount the school asked the society for the three acres of the property, that includes the VanKirk house.

Only board member Douglas McKernan dissented from the vote after suggesting the board postpone it if any other members were not sure.

Member Kevin Pollison at first suggested paying the remainder of the surveyor’s fee, $1,494, because the board also has to pay its attorney for work on the deed, but then consented to paying the whole $2,500.

“What has to be done now?” Pollison asked.

“Sign the deed,” historical society trustee Renee Ferguson answered.

Alvarez explained the closing cam be scheduled soon.

Fritsch explained the society got a one-year lease on the VanKirk house after the school district built the new Middle School, but the board reserved the right to take it back at any time. The society then negotiated a five-year lease requiring the board give them one year’s notice before taking it back. Finally, the board agreed to give the society the house and three acres.

The board acquired the 95-acre VanKirk farm to construct the Middle School, Fritsch said. The original farm was probably closer to 140 acres, but one family member subdivided some off.  Searches of township and county records revealed plot plans from the 1940's, but that was not good enough, Fritsch said. Among other things, the site triangles worked out then would no longer apply.

The house was built in the 1790's, although the family came to Sparta in 1756. It is much the same as it was when first built.

“Our intention is to present the way a family lived in the 1800's,” Ferguson said. She explained they would used one outbuilding as a simulated dairy barn. A local man has the equipment members of the VanKirk family used to make apple cider and applejack and will give it to the society.

The society held events at the house and invited sixth graders from the Middle School to join the annual Civil War encampments, he noted.  They hope to involved school children again, he added.

In other business, the board rescheduled its regular May meeting for Wednesday, May 29 because of board member conflicts. Student and staff recognition presentations are scheduled for that meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dennis Tobin said.

Tobin is attempting to streamline board meetings and avoid duplication between work and regular sessions. He proposed work sessions should have all presentations, except for those honoring someone, all committee reports and full discussion of action items.

“If we become efficient, our second meeting of the month shouldn’t be as long,” Tobin said. 



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