By John Burton
OCEANPORT – Borough officials will have to decide what to do with borough hall now that an engineering report has determined the structure was more heavily damaged by Super Storm Sandy than initially thought.
The report said the building at 222 Monmouth Blvd. was “substantially damaged,” meaning more than 50 percent of it was damaged.
Borough offices will be moved from the structure next week.
“The governing body will have to decide … do we rebuild here? Buy property? Move to the fort (Monmouth property)?” business administrator John O. Bennett III said. “There are all kinds of issues to decide.”
Councilman Joseph Irace said the report determined “the building is not salvageable.”
Borough officials have been in discussions with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about what the agency may recommend and offer in financial support, according to Irace.
The council believes “it’s time to look to higher ground,” Irace said.
Even if it is decided to rebuild on the Monmouth Boulevard site, the area floods easily and often leaves the location “an island” that is unusable for an emergency center, the councilman said
The rehabilitation of the almost 50-year-old building also may not be practical, because it would have to be brought up to current state and federal building code standards.
“So, we’re in the process of trying to decide what to do,” Irace said.
Bennett said that “realistically” it could take as many as three to five years to complete the work needed to bring borough operations under one roof.
“But at the end of the day, it’s going to be very nice,” he said.
Many borough hall offices and the employees who staff them are expected to move March 13-14 to the borough-owned Old Wharf House.
Bennett said police operations, which have been functioning out of a trailer in the rear of the Monmouth Boulevard building, will hopefully relocate later this month to available space at the former Fort Monmouth property. The municipal library has been moved to the borough community center on Iroquois Avenue.
The remainder of the borough’s operations will settle into the Old Wharf House, located at 316 East Main St. The building traditionally has been used for community functions, as a meeting place for various organizations and serves as the community’s senior citizen center.
The Old Wharf House was damaged by fire a few years ago, but was rebuilt and is in much better condition than the existing borough hall, Bennett said.
Workers are now preparing the space for the move by doing some work, including applying a fresh coat of paint.
The move is necessary, Bennett stressed.
“It can’t be helped; the building is unsafe,” he said.
Construction was completed on the existing borough hall in 1965, according to Irace.
When Sandy hit, the structure’s meeting room, used for borough council and municipal court sessions, was flooded with as much as 4 feet of water. Other portions of the building were inundated with about 18 inches of water. About six months after the storm and following repairs, portions of the facility, including the library and some offices, were able to reopen. “It was just bare bones, really,” Irace said.
The building’s overall condition resulted in borough council meetings being held at the Maple Place School, municipal court was conducted in Shrewsbury Borough, and police operations were located in the trailer, officials said.