Apartment legal fees rise to $210,000

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the Board of Trustees allocated an additional $55,000 in legal fees for the beleaguered Metzger Drive Apartment project. Combined with the $155,000 allocated over the summer, the Morristown-based law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith and King has received $210,000 in legal fees for the apartment complex.

Brian Murray, former director of the office of Construction and Planning, has said that the College is not pursuing legal action against the original contractors of the project. Murray said the funds are to pay for the firm’s review of the takeover agreement between the College and the insurer of the project, Liberty Mutual.

College President R. Barbara Gitenstein did not say if the College would pursue litigation.

According to Matt Golden, assistant director for Public Information, the College has been consulting with legal counsel since December about a takeover agreement. This lengthy negotiation process is responsible for the high cost, Golden said. “The negotiations have progressed through many stages, but we must secure safe, code compliant housing for students as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

The board also set aside $46,200 to McGowan Builders to provide consulting services related to projects in litigation, which currently involve only the Science Complex.

The board requested $49.5 million from the state to support its capital budget requests for the 2007 fiscal year, and a total of $232 million between 2007 and 2013.

The board requested $18.3 million to acquire the Sypek Center, the home of the Mercer County Vocational Technical School programs. The center spans 35 acres and would provide laboratory space for the College’s programs in civil, mechanical, electrical and biomedical engineering, and technology and science education, Golden said.

The request also included nearly $4 million to preserve the Recreation Center, $2 million to preserve utilities and $2.1 million to preserve the power plant. It also asked for nearly $3 million for new site work and landscaping. Other requests included $2.9 million for safety compliance, $1 million for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and $915,000 for asbestos compliance.

The board approved a $60,000 bid to bring Billy Joel to the College as the spring Celebration of the Arts performer. As of the meeting, the bid had not yet been accepted.

By a unanimous vote, the board approved a revised Alcohol and Drug policy that requires an individual under 21 be drinking to be punished for alcohol, rather than merely being in the presence of others who are over 21 and drinking.

The board appointed a new slate of officers. Stacy Holland, former vice chair, was elevated to the position of chairperson.

Holland, a College alumna, said she was honored to serve as chairperson. “I feel really humbled to serve an institution that really set forth my personal and professional career,” she said.

In the President’s report, Gitenstein discussed her concerns about rising fuel and utility prices.She complimented the College’s welcome to 10 students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Gitenstein also noted the success in alumni contributions. Twenty-eight percent more alumni have donated compared to last year, and total dollar contributions are up 335 percent.

Daria Silvestro, junior English secondary education major, was sworn in as the alternate student trustee, a position she was elected to during Student Government Association elections in April.

The alternate student trustee sits in on meetings, but has no vote. Silvestro will rise automatically to the position of student trustee next year, and will be given a vote on board business.