Reprinted from the Press of Atlantic City
December 2, 2004
A.C. school officials defend $4M. sale of buildings to CRDABy DEREK HARPER Staff Writer, (609) 272-7203
ATLANTIC CITY - One reason why the Atlantic City School District was willing to accept $4 million for a school and administration building earlier this year was that the ground beneath it may be significantly contaminated by old fuel tanks, according to former school board President Jim Herzog.
The deal the district accepted from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, or CRDA, gave it $2.5 million immediately, and the balance of the remaining $1.5 million after all demolition and cleanup is complete.
The deal also made the CRDA responsible for all cleanup beyond $1.5 million, Herzog said.
"There was some contaminated soil," Herzog said, "But how much or for how long remained the great unknown."
Both the Ohio Avenue School, 21 S. Ohio Ave., and the former administration building, 1809 Pacific Ave., relied on oil heat and had tanks on the premises, Herzog said.
At the time, the district did not do extensive ground tests, partially because the district was afraid of what it would find, Herzog said.
Some have questioned the $4 million deal. Preservationist Gwen Goodwin, who runs a Web site dedicated to preserving the school at
pointed out that the city assessed the two buildings at $8,494,700.
However, two separate certified appraisals in 2001 and 2003 pegged the buildings value at $4 million and $3.7 million.
Current board President Cornell Davis said he and former board member Timothy Mooney were the only dissenters among the 11 board members. However, the board unanimously approved the deal in January.
"I thought we could get more than that," Davis said Tuesday. He said he thought the buildings could be sold for between $6 million and $7 million. He also wanted more money for district after school programs.
Davis said CRDA representatives pressured board officials into selling. "It was the tone of their attorney; they were ready to do (the deal) now and there was no guarantee that they were willing to do it later."
Herzog, who works in Atlantic City's demolition department, said the specter of environmental cleanup was enough to make the deal worth it for the district. He has seen multimillion-dollar site cleanups.
At the time it wasn't worth the district's time in getting the assessment lessened, Herzog said. Assessments are used to determine property taxes. Since the property was government-owned, it did not pay taxes, and the assessment was moot.
The CRDA plans to use the land as a temporary parking for the Atlantic City Medical Center and nearby casinos. Once the lot is no longer needed, the CRDA would transfer the title to Caesars Entertainment Inc., which would move forward with expansion plans.
CRDA Executive Director Curtis Bashaw recently asked Caesars to incorporate the administration building in its plans.
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