By John Burton
SEA BRIGHT – The recent demolition of the Sandy-damaged borough library on Ocean Avenue – even with plans for a new one in the works – has left some people upset.
“It just doesn’t pass the smell test as far as a lot of us are concerned,” said The recent demolition of the Sandy-damaged borough library on Ocean Avenue – even with plans for a new one in the works – has left some people upset. chairwoman of the borough library trust committee about the Saturday, Jan. 11, leveling of the library building. While von Ziegesar was aware that the building was going to be torn down, she and others were unaware of the timing of the demolition.
Acting Borough Administrator Joseph Verruni said the demolition occurred quickly because of a slight change in plans following the borough council’s decision to move forward with building a new library/multipurpose building on-site. Plans initially called for the library to be razed either Monday, Jan. 13, or Tuesday, Jan 14. But, when the contractors, working on the municipal parking lot, asked the public works director for permission to move ahead with the demolition a couple of days early, they were given the go-ahead, Verruni said.
“It really stuck in several people’s craw” when they became aware of it. “We fully understand that,” he said, noting the emotional attachment people have with their library.
“With a situation like this, there really isn’t a middle solution,” Verruni said. “If you’re building a new library and the old one is not going to be repaired, you’re certainly not going to have two libraries at the same site.”
Von Ziegesar said she and others have been advocating for a temporary library for the past year but that has not yet come to fruition.
Meanwhile, during the Dec. 17 meeting, the Borough Council moved forward with plans to construct a new building that would provide space for offices, the library and a new beach pavilion on the Ocean Avenue property overlooking the public beach.
Originally, the plans were to rehabilitate the library building. But estimates were coming in prohibitively high, around $200,000, when the costs needed to bring the building up to current Americans with Disability Act requirements were added in. The long-term thought was to eventually build a new library, incorporating it with the beach pavilion, Verruni said. It just made “better business sense” to demolish the old building, Verruni said.
Super Storm Sandy caused flooding in the building, wiping out the HVAC/air conditioning and electrical systems, while damaging the foundation and the building’s rear wall. Also, “the roof lifted and dropped,” Verruni said. “The whole thing would have had to be gutted.”
Von Ziegesar said she and others felt “we had no say” in the process.
They had been looking for more than a year toward having the library repaired. Their efforts had been “stalled” by the governing body, she contended. The damage to the building wasn’t as severe as Verruni asserted, she said.
Von Ziegesar and others were working independently to get estimates and contractors to repair the existing structure, she said.
“We didn’t think we had this time bomb over our heads (for the demolition) because the library had been standing there for over a year after Sandy,” she said.
The library was built in 1992 with an addition added and dedicated in 2009. “It was built for that setting,” close to the oceanfront, von Ziegesar said.
The new multiuse project is expected to cost between $1.5 million and $1.7 million with officials optimistic it can be completed by Memorial Day 2015, Verruni said.
In the interim, there are plans to have portable modular units, similar to construction-site trailers – “but nicer” – to use as a temporary library, he added.
Without the library, “it feels much less of a town,” von Ziegesar said.
It has been such a difficult time for the community to move forward from the devastation of the storm that this is another blow for some, von Ziegesar said. “It’s been so hard to get things done here. So when you see something that is already built, in place, and you see it destroyed, it’s hard for a lot of people.”