It’s been a long time coming, but Commissioner Ed Borden and Steve Weinstein released a joint agreement today announcing that negotiations with Bancroft have resulted in a proposed letter of intent for the purchase of the Bancroft site for public use.
According to the statement, the proposed purchase price agreed upon by all parties involved – including Bancroft – is $12,192,500 for the 19.22 acre property. The purchase price is the current assessed property value of the Bancroft campus, according to representatives.
“Bancroft has agreed to the letter of intent. First of all, the process starts with a letter of intent that will be signed by all the parties, then that will be followed by a formal agreement of sale and the signing of more extensive documents,” Weinstein said. “Then we would move to the referendum which has to be approved by the department of education, have the referendum, and then assuming it was successful we would move forward.”
The proposed Letter of Intent will be the subject of three public meetings. The first will be a joint board of education and commissioner meeting on Wednesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. in the borough hall auditorium. The terms of the proposed agreement will be presented and public comment will be taken. It’s important to note that neither of the boards will be taking action at this meeting.
Following that meeting, the commissioners will consider action at their meeting on July 23 and the BOE will hold another special meeting for its decision.
Final approval for the funding for the project will be a bond referendum voted on by borough residents. The referendum will not be held in September as previously hoped for, Weinstein said, but will be held in late January. The board of education cannot get approved from the state department of education soon enough to hold the referendum in September.
“It feels good that we’ve gotten to this point. We went back and forth with the negotiations and I think we were able to show that if Bancroft wants to sell this is the best price they’re going to get. They hadn’t come below $15 million before this discussion. We’re happy about that, but I have to point out we have a long way to go, including public approval,” Weinstein said. “It’s a feel good day to get to this point, we’re happy about that, we think there is a legitimate opportunity for the town, the district, and all of its residents to acquire the property. We know it’s not cheap, we’re looking 20 to 30 years ahead.”
According to the letter, Bancroft would have up to two year to sign an agreement of sale for a new site. Until that happens, the school district would not have to sell its bonds until Bancroft has a firm agreement for a new location.
Bancroft would have to immediately begin looking for a new site and prepare plans for construction. Once the school district has purchased the property, Bancroft may remain on the property for two years while it is building a new facility. If it stays on the property for more than two years, it will have to pay rent of $400,000 for the third year and $500,000 for the fourth year. It may not stay on the property for more than four years, according to representatives.
If it doesn’t, Bancroft is subject to repayment of all the debt service paid by the district from the beginning until it vacates.
Ownership of the property will be divided between the district and the borough based on the funding available for open space use and affordable housing.
The bond referendum will likely be around $16 million, less all open space funding obtained and turf field funding (if provided).
Toni Pergolin, Bancroft President, said she hopes that the borough voters approve the referendum.
“I am delighted to join the Haddonfield Borough Commissioners and the Board of Education in announcing an agreement reached this week concerning the proposed sale of Bancroft’s Haddonfield Campus to the Borough. I am pleased the residents of the Borough will now have an opportunity to vote for this recommendation, given its long-term implications for the community,” she said in a released statement. “We have discussed the potential to complete such a sale for seven long years, and we feel the agreement we are announcing today is fair and reasonable for everyone, which has been our sincere hope in these discussions. My primary responsibility is to make business decisions that are in the best interest of Bancroft and the people we serve, and I believe that is the case with this agreement, because it is a major step toward developing modern facilities for our students. At the same time, this agreement provides Haddonfield the greatest flexibility for the use of this strategically located property for the current and future needs of its residents and school district”