Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Council takes up MOU with school district tonight

In taking up a resolution to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the school district this evening, the Plainfield City Council may be bringing a long-simmering dispute to an amicable close.

The City and the school district for many years had a long-standing but informal relationship whereby certain fees and permits required by one or the other for use of its buildings and grounds or other services were mutually waived. It seems that both entities considered any expense involved "a wash", meaning that the impacts would mutually cancel each other out.

When, however, Mayor Adrian Mapp proposed ratifying this long-standing relationship with a formal MOU in 2014, the district, under the leadership of former Board of Ed president Wilma Campbell, responded with a list of additional demands including limits on use of school facilities by the Recreation Division; limiting Town Halls in school buildings to two per year; use of the city's grant-writing services by the school district; and trimming of trees on school property by the city's Division of Public Works.

The City objected to these conditions and started billing the District for the approximately $600,000 annual cost of School Resource Officers posted to the schools which had, up until then, been absorbed as a cost by the City.

Things came to a head this past winter, when, after agreeing to co-sponsor a citywide Youth Summit and host it at Plainfield High School on a school day, the superintendent cancelled the district's participation on short notice. By doing so, the district left the City scurrying for alternate space. (The event was held at duCret School of Art, on a Saturday, and was very successful.)

With the defeat of Mrs. Campbell in her effort at re-election, and the development of a new, forward-looking and cooperative majority on the Board of Ed, it appears the breach will now be healed.

The proposed agreement covers various permits and fees required by both entities, but specifically exempts the city's discounted gasoline service (which the District uses), and Planning and Zoning Board fees.

City Council meets for its agenda-setting session this evening at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. Parking available on the street and in the public lot across from the Police Station.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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