Florence school board partners with municipality for safety improvements


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As part of an effort to address safety and health concerns, the Florence Township School District entered into a capital grant agreement with the municipality to enact multiple improvements to the schools.

Florence school district officials released a Jan. 7 announcement that to ensure township residents can access the school’s facilities and safeguard the students and residents attending the school facilities, funds are being subsidized as part of a financial agreement with developer IPT Florence West Urban Renewal, LLC, intended to provide enhancements to the community as part of their negotiations with the municipality.

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The action from the district comes after the Florence Township Council passed an ordinance on Dec. 18, which approved a financial agreement with IPT.

When the ordinance was introduced at an earlier December meeting, municipal officials explained that the developer of the former Griffin Pipe site was tasked with the remediation of environmental issues on the east and west sides of the site. Due to the cost in cleaning up the former Griffin Pipe location, the township administrator Richard Brook explained that the municipality proposed a financial agreement with IPT to encourage development on this property.

The Florence Township Planning Board approved an application with IPT for the proposed construction of a 508,200 sq. ft. warehouse sited on West Front Street at a Nov. 26, meeting. Following the decision of approval, more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space could be potentially developed on Front Street after planners approved an application last year with IPT to build a 528,000 square foot warehouse.

The developer also agreed to donate approximately 23 acres of township property for open space and municipal purposes as part of that application.

As part of the December financial agreement, officials said that the amount of payments going to the municipality with respect to the building values are incrementally increased, in this case, for 25 years.

Although municipal officials said that these agreements can sometimes be seen or criticized as a “tax break” for developers, officials explained that IPT has agreed to contribute to the township with several aimed benefits for residents.

Officials said that when they meet with a developer, they discuss incentive programs for them to invest in the community such as projects to work with the school, fire district or the municipality.

IPT committed to contribute several aimed additions to the Florence Township School District, which is proposed to include safety enhancements at Roebling Elementary School and ADA improvements at Riverfront Middle School.

Included in this plan is the installation of security measures and construction improvements to create a more secure entrance at the Roebling Elementary School as well as repair and refurbishment of an ADA compliant ramp at the Pine Street entrance at Riverfront Middle School.

District officials said capital investments in the school facilities are generally funded via public referendum to authorize the issuance of debt to fund such projects, however laws in the State of New Jersey promote the sharing of services among local units of government, including the township and board of education.

District officials explained that soon after the most recent referendum failed last year for what they felt were much needed improvements for the schools, the district and municipality began working to meet the needs of the district.

“With limited funds, both parties looked for ways to increase security and other project goals and found an avenue in seeking partnerships with incoming businesses,” district officials said.

“We heard the concerns of our district families and have been meeting regularly with township officials to create a plan that will be beneficial to all,” Superintendent of Florence Township Schools Donna Ambrosius said. “One of our primary focuses is to always provide a safe and secure establishment for our students and their families. We look forward to partnering with the township once again to maintain these goals.”

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