VOORHEES – Voters in Gibbsboro, Voorhees and Berlin Borough will decide next week if Eastern Camden County Regional High School District can move forward with a $10 million bond to improve air quality and regulate temperatures inside the 60-year-old building.
Eastern Regional officials want to complete $9.995 million in HVAC upgrades to the high school to help partly with COVID-19 recovery. The project is eligible for state funds to cover a portion of the cost.
If voters approve the proposal, the state will kick in 40 percent — or about $4 million, according to Ken Verrill, the district’s chief financial officer.
The local share, $6 million, is already available in capital reserve funds in the school district’s budget. That means the project would not increases taxes for Gibbsboro, Voorhees or Berlin Borough property owners, Verrill said.
“We need to have the referendum and the voters need to approve it. Once that’s done, it will be a legally binding obligation from the state,” Verril explained.
Discussions spurring this bond referendum go back to the summer of 2020, Superintendent Robert Cloutier said.
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In June 2020, federal money was announced for school districts to help address learning losses over 18 months of remote learning. Part of that COVID-19 rescue money could be used for HVAC upgrades and repairs to ensure safer indoor air quality as it related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eastern Regional received about $2 million in COVID-19 rescue money. While the bulk of the grant is earmarked for student-facing programs, including summer school, a sliver was used to begin HVAC upgrades.
As the district evaluated its systems, it realized more extensive repairs and upgrades were needed to provide cool and clean air to the entirety of the roughly 404,000-square-foot school.
The building, which serves about 1,920 students, was constructed in stages from the 1960s through 2003.
“Part of the building was never air-conditioned. This proposal air conditions the entire building in one fell swoop,” Verrill said.
The units the school does have are old, and replacement parts are becoming harder to find, he added.
“They are highly inefficient and the reality of it is, they are starting to fail,” he explained.
Unit ventilators with cooling coils would be added to every classroom to both clean and cool air coming through the system.
HVAC projects have been a priority of many school districts due to COVID concerns. Viruses spread more easily in warm, damp environments.
Voting will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14.
Berlin Borough, Gibbsboro and Voorhees residents may vote at the following locations:
Berlin Borough Hall, 59 S White Horse Pike Berlin 08009
Berlin Fire Hall, 221 S White Horse Pike Berlin 08009
Berlin Community Center, 250 Franklin Ave., Berlin 08009
American Legion Post 37141, N Lakeview Drive, Gibbsboro 08026
Ashland Church, 33 E Evesham Road, Voorhees 08043
Kirkwood Fire Company #2, 2002 S Burnt Mill Road, Voorhees 08043
Lion’s Lake Community Center, 100 Dutchtown Road, Voorhees 08043
Voorhees Municipal Complex, 2400 Town Center Blvd., Voorhees 08043
Food Court at Voorhees Town Center, 2120 Voorhees Town Center, Voorhees 08043
School Administration Building, 329 Route 73, Voorhees 08043
Kresson Fire Hall, 423 Cooper Road, Voorhees 08043
Carly Q. Romalino is a Gloucester County native who’s covered South Jersey since 2008. She’s a Rowan University graduate and a six-time New Jersey Press Association award winner.
Romalino is based at the Courier Post and covers South Jersey schools and education issues for the Courier Post, Daily Journal and Burlington County Times.
She hosts NJ Press Pass, a live social media-based interview show diving into what matters to South Jersey residents.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Eastern Regional puts $10M HVAC upgrade bond on the ballot