Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to school

Some random thoughts on the TCHS mess

The state has announced (yet again) a plan for building a new Trenton Central High School (TCHS) on the site of the current structure on Chambers Street.

The new plan has a price tag of about $150 million and would save the existing clock tower, façade and entranceway while demolishing the rest of the building. Schools Development Authority (SDA) head Kris Kolluri says that renovating the current building would take $30 million more and two years longer to get the oft-delayed project done.

Of course, if the SDA and its failed predecessor the Schools Construction Corporation (SCC) hadn’t played games with the equally ineffectual Trenton School Board for the past nine years, the project could have been done by now. Instead, the fate of the iconic and once highly regarded TCHS has been a frequently fumbled political football.

Here’s an admittedly heretical thought, let’s forget about doling out federal stimulus money to the Trenton Club and the yet-to-be-realized new Trenton YMCA and other non-infrastructure projects and put it towards restoring/renovating TCHS. And yes, we know, the projects have to be “shovel ready” and all that. If only the SCC/SDA and the School Board had dealt with this problem realistically from the outset, it might have been.

And, for the record, there is no offense or affront meant to the venerable Trenton Club or the Y. The former is one of the oldest social institutions in the city. The latter does good work in its existing facility and the new building has been the dream of many good people. Unfortunately they are both “private” organizations…as in non-government…and as such shouldn’t benefit from the stimulus funding over something as necessary as a public high school.

Further, in the case of the YMCA we have to say that if the public truly felt the need for this oft-relocated, re-imagined facility, they would have found ways to fund it without government assistance.

Sorry. It’s just the way we feel.

And then there was this letter to the editor in the Times, Friday August 14, 2009:

Producing the high school Trenton’s students need

The debate over the future of Trenton Central high School has produced a great deal of emotion and much nostalgia – and I understand that. I went to Trenton High for a time and also have countless colleagues and friends who are alumni. Even today, I bring visitors by to show them this imposing structure.

The main point to consider at this time, I believe, is that our students (and their parents) deserve to have a first class high school as soon as practicable. As distinct as it is, the building now is in obvious disrepair. The new plan that the Schools Development Authority and the Board of Education have come up with retains the classic clock tower and front entrance while offering the compelling benefits of state-of-the –art learning environments, energy efficiency, security, and a timetable two years short and $30 million less expensive than total renovation. The SDA-Board plan warrants approval.

The benefits of a modern school facility can be seen the city at the new Columbus, Daylight-Twilight, Kilmer and Parker Schools (and are taking shape at the new Jefferson School as well). Our high school students deserve nothing less. We need to move forward with this plan now.
–DOUGLAS H. PALMER, Trenton
The writer is mayor of Trenton.

Upon first reading the letter this one sentence practically leapt off of the page:
As distinct as it is, the building now is in obvious disrepair.

Huh?!?!? And whose administration and whose appointed school board oversaw the lack of maintenance that lead to this “obvious disrepair?”

And notices, too, that he brings "visitors BY" but not into the school to show it off.

That got us to thinking…what if we rewrote that letter just slightly:

Producing the Trenton we need

The debate over the future of Trenton has produced a great deal of emotion and much nostalgia – and I understand that. I lived in Trenton for a time and also have countless colleagues and friends who are residents. Even today, I bring visitors by to show them this historic city.

The main point to consider at this time, I believe, is that our residents deserve to have a first city as soon as practicable. As distinct as it is, the city now is in obvious disrepair. The new plan that the state has funded and my administration have come up with retains the classic elements while offering the compelling benefits of state-of-the –art learning environments, energy efficiency, security, and a timetable two years shorter and $30 million less expensive than total renovation. The State-City plan warrants approval.

The benefits of a modern Trenton can be seen the city at the new Hotel, Maxine’s/Phoenix, Foundry and Trent Town Center developments (and are taking shape at the new Hovnanian development in South Trenton as well). Our citizens deserve nothing less. We need to move forward with this plan now.
–DOUGLAS H. PALMER, Trenton
The writer is mayor of Trenton.

Same old BS, same old “spin and spend my way out of trouble” Doug.

Trentonians, at this stage the best course of action to follow is probably just the opposite of whatever Mr. Palmer proposes.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Palmer should be sued for neglecting the Trenton Central High building for 20 years, while he cooked up the "Daylight Twilight", "Medical Arts" and "West" high schools. If he and the school board had devoted that time and money to SIMPLE MAINTENANCE of the Chambers St landmark, we wouldn't be talking demolition now.

Old Mill Hill said...

This is so true. And it can be said of the way all levels of our government manages and maintains public property...poorly if at all.

Old Mill Hill said...

As a post script to the blog entry we'd like to note two additional items.

First, it is ridiculous and almost unthinkable that the venerable "Times" can editorialize in favor of demolishing the TCHS building and at the same time lobby (rightly) for saving the Presbyterian Church in Ewing.

Second, in an email blast that went out today, Preservation New Jersey observes that the $150 million cost of the lastest demolish and rebuild plan for TCHS is actually higher than earlier cost estimates.

"The previous bid for a rehabilitated Trenton High, with significant additions and designed to accommodate 600 more students than today's proposal, was $20 million less (at then higher prices for labor and materials) than the current proposed cost for demolition and new construction."

Something doesn't quite add up, now, does it.

DTV Deputy Cleän said...

Is Dougie having a spat with his boyfriend, Larry Parker? I found it odd that he had to resort to writing a letter to (what's left of) The Times.

Old Mill Hill said...

Most likely this little tome, no doubt ghost-written by paid flack Kent Ashworth, will show up in the Trentonian sooner or later.

Mr. Parker was probably out of the office playing golf when the missive came in.