Barnegat Bonding for New Township Hall

Nov 17, 2017

Saying it had to get the ball rolling, the Barnegat Township Committee has introduced an ordinance bonding $14.2 million for a new municipal building and public works facility. At the Nov.14 meeting, Mayor Albert Bille said the committee is looking to build the new facility on the same West Bay Avenue tract on which the current building has been located for approximately 40 years.

“But what we’re looking at possibly doing is constructing a new building closer to the roadway (Bay Avenue) and then tear down the current one, which is set back from the road,” he said. “We could use that space for parking. All this is very preliminary, but we can’t keep talking about it. We have to act now and begin the process of building the new one.”

Bille said committee members have received feedback from residents complaining that the current town hall is insufficient.

“It’s a disgrace,” he said. “There are several areas where the roof leaks after a bad rainstorm. It is severely outdated. We don’t even have enough room for keeping all our records.”

Bille said he hopes the cost will be lower than the amount bonded.

“It could be a good amount of time before we actually spend any money,” he said. “We don’t have a timetable yet for when this will start or be completed. We’re just beginning the process.” 

Police Lt. Keith Germain underscored the need to replace the police station, which is located on the west end of the building.

“The police station moved here in 1981, and at that time we had 12 officers and a population of 8,000,” he said. “We badly needed a new police station 20 years ago. Ten years ago, we needed it incredibly badly, and it has gotten worse since then.”

He said most of the department members work out of trailers.

“We’re probably the only police department around that does not have indoor plumbing,” said Germain. “Because of that, if we have someone in our holding cell that has to use the bathroom, officers have to escort him out of the police station to a bathroom that other employees use. Considering that some of these prisoners could be intoxicated, that is not a good situation.”

Because there are no locker facilities, officers have to show up for work in uniform.

Committeeman John Novak, who is police department liaison, added, “We have an excellent police department, which unfortunately operates in very poor working conditions.”

Without a public works building, most of the equipment is stored in area behind the building. More than 10 year ago, the committee looked at erecting a new public works headquarters off Lighthouse Drive.

“It never materialized,” Novak said. “We do have a salt shed back there, but now we have to find a way to get all the operations indoors.”

A  public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the next meeting, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 6:30 p.m. 

— Eric Englund      

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