By JOHN T. WARD
One year after it began, work to restore three decrepit old barns at the Parker Homestead site in Little Silver has been stalled for months, and may be heading to court.
Neither town officials nor the contractor, Nickles Contracting, would discuss the reason for the inactivity, or even say when the stoppage began, leaving the structures a patchwork of braces and plywood coverings.
“It’s kind of in the hands of our attorneys,” Mayor Bob Neff told redbankgreen, citing the possibility of the matter winding up in litigation for his reticence on the matter.
Nickles Contracting owner Ted Nickles declined redbankgreen‘s request for comment. His 44-year-old firm, based in Haddon Heights, has worked on more than 350 historic preservation jobs, including such prominent sites as Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, and Lucy the Margate Elephant. The firm was honored by the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Historic Preservation Office in 2012 for its work.
Work on the three barns – a horse barn, a livestock barn and a wagon barn – was funded with a $250,000 Monmouth County Open Spaces grant, and called for new roofs, new siding and new interior floors, Keith Wells, a trustee for the nonprofit Parker Homestead 1665 Inc. said in an April, 2014 announcement. When completed, “the barns should be good for another 200 years,” Wells said then.
Work began in July, 2014, and was expected to take about 90 days. The work continued past that timeframe, Neff said, but he couldn’t say when it stopped, except that Nickles hasn’t done any work this year.
A source who asked not to be identified told redbankgreen that Nickles “found additional work that needed to be done” and submitted change orders for “a fair amount of money” to the borough, setting off the dispute.
Neff called the hangup “frustrating,” but said that borough officials are “hopeful we’ll get these issues ironed out,” and if they don’t, “we’ll pursue alternatives. It certainly won’t stop us from moving forward with the project. We’ll get those barns done.”
He said officials are “conscious of the appearance” of the barns, which are opposite a park and playground and alongside the entrance to Sickles Market. He said the town had asked Nickles to remove a motorized lift from the site.
The barn project formed the second phase of restoration efforts at the Parker property, following the stabilization of the family homestead itself, which has been dated back to 1720. Parker Homestead 1665 is not involved in the barn project, Wells told redbankgreen.
The nonprofit has been in talks to lease the property from the borough. Neff said he expects a 20-year agreement to be finalized soon.