School Feasibility Study Still on Mayors' Agendas
Washington Township committee members unsure why municipality is still involved.
Mayors from the area, despite their differences, don’t want to go down without a fight. Or at least trying whatever out-of-the-box options may be available to them.
Washington Township Mayor Ken Short announced at the committee’s work session Wednesday night that he, along with the mayors from the Chesters and Mendhams, have been meeting privately in recent months to find a way for Oct. 30 to not be the end of an 16-month working relationship.
Oct. 30 is the next scheduled date for the West Morris Regional Education Advisory Committee to meet, which will be held in Long Valley at the municipal building. The group, led by the five mayors and accompanied by representatives from the area’s school boards, hasn’t held a session since July.
While working toward agreeing on specific changes in school structure in a potential feasibility study, the mayors came to an impasse in July, with Mendham Township saying it would not contribute its portion–$10,000–to fund the study if it included the analysis of a mega K-12 school district, encompassing all five towns.
At that same meeting, Mayor Bob Davis of Chester Borough said that town’s council needed more time to consider where it stood. In the months since, the Borough has decided to side with Mendham Township and not fund a study including the mega K-12 option.
But on Wednesday night, Short said there might be another option–one that would include all five towns and give each municipality what it wants in the study.
That option would have Washington Township pay its share for the study, but not fund the portion analyzing a specified high school district for the Chesters and Mendhams. On the other side, Mendham Township and Chester Borough would fund the study, excluding the portions pertaining to the mega K-12 analysis.
“It seems like they’re afraid to get all the answers,” Short said during a discussion with his committee members. “Two towns have basically reneged, so we need to try something else.”
Township Vice Mayor Bill Roehrich, who stood in for Short at the July meeting and has been vocal in the past about not wanting to fund the separate high school district analysis, was blunt with his opinion to Short.
“Honestly, I’m perplexed that we’re still going along with this,” Roehrich said. “If everyone agrees, we can move forward, but only as long as (all five towns) are putting in the same amount of money.”
“It seems as though their fear is they’ll be shipping Mendham kids to Washington Township, because of our decreasing enrollment and empty seats, if we make one district,” Short said. “Our intent, at this stage, is just to gather information.”
Committeeman Tracy Tobin leaned toward Roehrich’s thought process, but pointed the group’s impasse directly at Chester Borough and Mendham Township.
“It’s my personal opinion that the two objecting towns want to write their own determination,” Tobin said. “Anything else they want won’t be objective, and if that’s the case, tell them to stay home.”
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Washington Township Municipal Building on Oct. 30.