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Oceanport Narrows Options For New Borough Hall

OCEANPORT: The search for a new borough hall is nearing its end as the council is now choosing between five options.

Borough Architect Andrew Trocchia gave a presentation at the April 2 Oceanport Council meeting to go over the pros and cons of the options.

The five possibilities are new construction at Maria Gatta Park, a Fort Monmouth site, the Old Village Center on East Main Street, rebuilding at the site of the old borough hall or purchasing Russel Hall at Fort Monmouth.

A land swap would be required to construct a building at Maria Gatta Park and there are also some storm water issues at the site, Trocchia said.

The Fort Monmouth site is vacant land located along Main Street that would have a lower acquisition cost than some of the other options and give the borough more flexibility. However, the utility costs, exposure of the site and location near residences are negatives, Trocchia said.

If the old borough hall site on the corner of Monmouth Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue was used, the new construction would be elevated, and the borough would not have to pay money to acquire the land as it already owns it. Trocchia said that even if built at a higher elevation, if the area flooded, it would still make accessing the building difficult. The council also discussed the possibility of selling the borough-onwed land to make way for future residential construction.

Another option would be purchasing an Old Village Center building along East Main Street. The building would have some new construction and also be renovated. The additional space could be rented to tenants to bring additional revenue to the borough. Some of the negatives are acquiring additional land for parking requirements and purchasing the land could be more costly than other options.

The borough has also expressed interest in acquiring Russel Hall, a 42,300 square foot, 3-story historic building located in the Oceanport area of Fort Monmouth, for use as the new borough hall.

The council agreed that it will respond to a Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) request for offers to purchase (RFOTP) the property but would withdraw its proposal if a "viable private enterprise" that would bring tax revenue and create jobs was in the running for the building.

The council introduced a bond ordinance to earmark the funds should the borough move forward with the purchase of Russel Hall. If the RFOTP is withdrawn the ordinance will simply not be adopted by the council.

The council agreed that the Oceanport Police Department should not be a part of the new borough hall and will continue to operate either at the firehouse at Fort Monmouth or a new location. This decision was based on a recommendation by the Site Selection Committee after it was determined that adding the police department could cost as much as an additional $5 million.

"There are other opportunities on Fort Monmouth for the police department that we can transition to if necessary," Mayor Michael Mahon said.

The average price for a building with the police function added to it is about $10 million, compared to $5 million to just under $7 million for a building without it, Trocchia said.

The library, which is currently located at the Oceanport Community Center, may or may not be part of the new borough hall. The site selection committee recommended not including the library in the new plans but Councilwoman Ellynn Kahle said she felt that based on library meetings she has attended that library officials may feel otherwise

"They are concerned about being over there away from the municipal government...and they feel pretty isolated in that area," Kahle said. "They are looking to move when we move."

If it is included, its cost does not bring the price of construction up as substantially as adding police facilities.

A town hall meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Maple Place School cafetorium so the public can hear all the borough hall options and give its input.

Read more from: Oceanport

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