ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — “Finally,” said John Scheidt, president of Santorini Construction company, offering a sigh of relief and a smile of appreciation as the borough celebrated the completion of a two-year, $6 million renovation of the borough municipal building at 100 First Ave.
Though a few small tasks remain to be done before the building is fully operational, Scheidt joined Mayor Frederick J. Rast III, the Borough Council, former mayors and borough employees in a New Year’s Day ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility.
While the project was more expensive than projected and slightly behind the projected timeline, there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to the cost increases and delays, said Borough Administrator Adam Hubeny.
Those included changes and upgrades the governing body agreed upon, and some snags related to utility work and issues with the weather, Hubeny said.
The project came in at approximately $300,000 over the initial cost projections.
Rast and the governing body decided to move forward with the renovation and expansion project back in 2009, to address long discussed concerns about the old borough facilty.
Officials had admitted the municipal building, which contains its business offices, public library and police headquarters and dates back to 1970, had become too small to accommodate modern needs, did not adhere to handicap accessibility requirements, and had developed moisture and mold problems. Rast, with the support of the six-member council (four Republican and two Democrats), said it would be financially prudent for them to move forward with a plan to renovate and add additional space. He argued, given the economic climate many contractors faced, the borough would likely get very attractive bids and quite low interest rates, making it a propitious time to undertake the large project.
“They had enough foresight to move forward with this project in difficult economic times,” the mayor said of the council. “They really saved a lot of money.”
The borough also saved some money by taking an offer from the Avaya telecommunications company, which offered the borough office furniture from its closed Middletown facility. That, Rast said, probably saved about $100,000. Another cost saving measure, officials have said in the past, was for the local library to join the county system, with the county responsible for salaries and benefits.
“Unless you’ve worked in construction, it’s difficult to appreciate a renovation as opposed to a new construction,” explained project architect Eli Goldstein. “And this was no ordinary renovation.”
The project took the site’s existing 10,000 square feet and expanded it by another 8,000, officials explained when they broke ground on the project in March 2010. With the added space, “This building will allow us to grow,” and should continue to be viable for another 50 years or more, Hubeny said.
And in the final analysis, Hubeny said, “You will be very happy as residents and taxpayers when you see what was done inside.”
“We are happy with what we have,” said Police Chief Gerard Vasto of his new police headquarters.
The old headquarters were built in 1970 and “built for 1970,” he said. Now, “Everything flows so well downstairs,” where the department will be situated, he said.
“The officers will truly have a police headquarters that is truly functional,” the chief said, noting the department should be housed in the new facility within the week.