By Donald Wittkowski
Looking at them now, it is hard to believe that three dilapidated trailer-like modular units sitting behind the former Sea Isle City Public School were ever an important part of the community.
Over the years, they served as a school annex and were later converted into a temporary headquarters for the police department after Hurricane Sandy battered the old City Hall in 2012.
But these eyesores are finally going to be torn down as the first step in the city’s plan to possibly convert the old school building into a community recreation complex. City Council awarded a nearly $125,000 contract on Saturday for the demolition work.
“The main reason is that the buildings are in deplorable condition and serve no useful purpose now,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said of the demolition of the old structures.
The city had originally planned to raze them after the school closed in 2012. But they got a second life in late 2012 after Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the old City Hall. The police department and other municipal offices moved into the school and the old trailers on an emergency basis.
When Sea Isle’s new City Hall opened in 2015, the modular trailers were no longer needed and began to deteriorate. Tucked behind the school on Park Road between 45th and 46th streets, they are marred by peeling paint and missing siding.
During the school’s active years, the trailers served as a library, office space, a teachers’ lounge and a handicap-accessible bathroom, Board of Education President Dan Tumolo said. Tumolo now calls them “ratty.”
The modular units were added to the back of the school in the 1980s when more space was needed to accommodate what was then Sea Isle’s growing student population.
Now, those same trailers are a symbol of the city’s dying school system. When the school closed down in 2012 due, ironically, to declining student enrollment, the trailers became a weather-beaten eyesore.
Demolishing the old trailers is considered a prelude to the school’s conversion into a community recreation site. A study committee has been looking into possible options for the old school, including whether it should be renovated or torn down for a new recreation complex.
Built in 1971, the school occupies an entire block bordered by Park Road, Central Avenue, 45th Street and 46th Street. Although the building itself is generally sound, it sits below the elevation considered safe for flood protection under current standards, city officials say.
While discussions continue on the school’s fate, the old trailers will not be standing much longer. Savastano estimated the demolition work will be completed within about 45 days.
The trailers were supposed to be razed earlier this year, but City Council rescinded a proposed $133,850 demolition contract in February. The contractor that submitted the low bid at that time failed to disclose required information about a subcontractor, city officials said. That represented a “technical defect,” prompting Council to rescind the contract.
When the contract was rebid, a new contractor won the job. Neri Construction & Rentals Inc., of Williamstown, N.J., submitted a low bid of $124,890 and was awarded the contract during a City Council meeting on Saturday. Council normally holds its meetings on Tuesdays, but this one fell on a Saturday as part of the city’s annual Community Day celebration.