By JOHN T. WARD
Fair Haven officials rolled out a set of concept drawings Thursday night for a pair of new borough buildings at the heart of an ambitious consolidation plan.
They also unveiled a timetable for the proposal, which calls for a domino chain of real estate acquisition, construction and the sale of property to help fund it all.
A concept plan for the new DPW offices and garages, which would front on Third Street at the present site. Below, architect Eli Goldstein explains the plan to residents. (Rendering by Eli Goldstein. Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Before an audience of several hundred residents at the Knollwood School, architect Eli Goldstein showed elevation drawings of a structure to house the Department of Public Works, on a portion of its current site on Third Street, and a three-story building to house the police department and other municipal operations on River Road.
The new borough hall, the centerpiece of the project, would be on the site of a Sunoco station that went out of business in late 2011 and has been vacant since. The town is in purchase negotiations, Mayor Ben Lucarelli told redbankgreen earlier this week.
“Keep in mind that these are just concept plans,” Goldstein told the gathering. “They are showing you some general ideas we have discussed with your governing body to try to understand their functional requirements and how they might be satisfied.”
Goldstein started with photos, displayed on a large screen, capturing conditions at the existing police station and the DPW yard.
“You may be shocked at how much deterioration they’ve suffered over the years,” he said, before clicking through images of structural rot, water-sogged insulation and more. The police station has doorways so narrow that even if a wheelchair user could get into the building, “they couldn’t get into the rooms,” he said.
A photo showing a tangle of wiring installed over several generations above a drop ceiling in the station house was evidence of “very hazardous” conditions, he said.
The police station was built as the Fisk Street School a century ago, and the DPW yard was erected in the 1970s as a “temporary” facility, borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande told the audience. Both are located “in the middle of residential neighborhoods, which is less than optimal for both operations and the residents’ quality of life,” she said.
Officials have previously said that rehabilitating those structures is not economically feasible.
A Gantt chart timetable shown Thursday calls for a process extending through 2021. First, the DPW operation would be reduced and relocated to the northerly part of its 2.3-acre property, along Third Street, with one acre to the south divided up for sale as residential lots. Officials have previously said they could get 10 residences on the land.
A proposal to build a 2,000-square-foot lawn maintenance shed at Fair Haven Fields was scrapped after the advisory committee that oversees the nature area and ballfields objected, Lucarelli told redbankgreen earlier this week. That equipment can be accommodated at the reconfigured current site, he said.
Construction of the new borough hall would follow. A plan to remodel the existing borough hall, also on River Road, and turn it into a combination public library and community center, would have to follow the relocation of government operations to the new building, Casagrande said.
The current police HQ, which adjoins the community center, would also be sold to help pay for the project. Cost estimates have yet been finalized, Lucarelli said this week.
Tucked into a $3.2 million bond ordinance passed in October is an unspecified amount of funding for the acquisition of the Sunoco site.
Lucarelli said the whole project can be “revenue-neutral” as a result of real estate sales proceeds and possible state financing help for the library makeover.
In response to a question from Church Street resident Steve Knowlton, Goldstein said the new facilities would incorporate “the most energy-efficient” windows and other environmentally friendly features as the town can afford.
A full set of drawings, as well as the timetable and a rationale for the project, can be seen here.