Lawmakers scrutinize SDA’s progress

TRENTON – The state authority tasked with building and repairing new and current schools in New Jersey told a joint

TRENTON – The state authority tasked with building and repairing new and current schools in New Jersey told a joint panel that progress is being made on dozens of construction projects.

Marc Larkins, CEO of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, appeared before a state subcommittee Wednesday to give lawmakers an update on the state of school construction in New Jersey.

Larkins testified before the Legislature’s School Facilities and Construction Subcommittee with the state’s Joint Committee on Public Schools.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to appear publically,” he said. “Because we feel part of our job is to correct misinformation.”

Larkins’ disputed claims that the SDA has been slow at jumpstarting construction projects. The chief executive cited the recent groundbreaking for a new high school in Elizabeth as an example of the authority’s readiness to move projects.

The SDA’s current portfolio includes more than $2 billion worth of active projects, Larkins reported to the subcommittee, explaining more than $1 billion includes ongoing work with the 2011 and 2012 capital projects – 30 in total – and nearly $200 million worth of additional construction and $792 million in Regular Operating District grants, Larkins said.

However, the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Donald Norcross, (D-5), Camden asked pointed questions.

“We’re now 30 months into your tenure,” said Norcross, scanning the list of the SDA’s capital projects.

“Has anybody in any of these actually started to construct a school yet?” Norcross asked, referring to bricks and motor construction.

“No, senator,” Larkins responded.

A spokesman for the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO also testified during the subcommittee meeting, telling lawmakers that jumpstarting projects are just as imperative to unemployed New Jerseyans as they are for students.

“I think it’s important that we recognize … that they are also lifelines for our industry,” said A.J. Sabath.

“We’ll have more work coming very shortly, Marc (Larkins) will make sure of that,” Norcross said. Lawmakers scrutinize SDA’s progress