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Eatontown To Consider Handling Demolition of Howard Commons Buildings

EATONTOWN: With Hovnanian leaving its deal to demolish the existing buildings in the Howard Commons area of Fort Monmouth and build new housing, the borough is now discussing the possibility of expediting the demolition by handling it as a municipality.

During the Sept. 10 meeting, Mayor Gerald Tarantolo asked for the Eatontown Council's approval to go out for a proposal to attract demolition companies to provide quotes to demolish the buildings.

Tarantolo said the borough could bond for the demolition and the developer ultimately chosen to build on the site would reimburse the borough for the cost through a contractual obligation with the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) and the developer. He said taking this step could help the buildings be demolished a year earlier than if a developer were to handle it.

"I want to expedite the demolition of that area," Tarantolo said. "I drove through it again today and it's getting worse and worse. This would essentially be the first step in the process to demolish those buildings under the authority of the borough."

He added that he does not expect FMERA to issue a request for offers to purchase (RFOTP) for the Howard Commons property until the first or second week of October.

He said the Department of Public Health is currently examining the area to see if it poses a health hazard to residents in the area in its current state. He said the departments findings could expedite the process of demolition, but that neither the Army nor FMERA will handle the demolition themselves.

Councilman Anthony Talerico said he felt having the engineer look at the feasibility of the borough handling the demolition is a good first step.

"I'm going to support having our engineer draw this up under the strict guidance of (Borough Attorney Andy Bayer), but I'm going to hope and ask the council be seriously involved in the process," Talerico said. "At least asking for prices is a good start, I support you on that mayor."

Council President Dennis Connelly said the burden of demolishing the buildings early should fall of the state and not the borough.

"We're on the hook for the bonding until the sale is there and we've already had a major developer back out," Connelly said. "I think some of the things your saying, mayor, make sense, but I think putting the people of Eatontown at risk for this bill is not the way to go."

The council ultimately agreed to allow Borough Engineer David Marks to walk the site with demolition experts to get some "informal pricing" including prevailing wage rates for the project. Marks said he could likely have a report from his discussions for the council to review at its next meeting.

Tarantolo said in the meantime, FMERA has hired a contractor to "dedicated to monitoring the condition along Pinebrook Road," and is also looking at placing a mesh cover over the existing fence that separates the buildings from the road to "obscure the blight."

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