NORTH BRUNSWICK – Township officials are hoping a section of the township’s municipal complex, which remains closed because of flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida more than 18 months ago, will reopen this fall.
The rest of the building could reopen in early 2024, said Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack.
The first floor of the police department, the main lobby and the courtroom at the complex on Hermann Road sustained extensive flood damage in the record-setting rainstorm, forcing the relocation of offices and the police department.
Some township offices are operating out of trailers at the site, while others have been moved to other locations.
Womack said the township does not have an exact cost for repairs, but he estimated damage to be in the multi-millions dollar range.
Womack said he is hoping most, if not all of the cost will be paid for by insurance and FEMA.
On Jan. 24, township officials are scheduled to meet with the project managers, said Township Business Administrator Justine Progebin, who is overseeing the work.
“The township will receive a recommendation and direction for the next stage of active restoration efforts at the end of the month,” Progebin said.
Managing the restoration are CME Associates, concentrating on the structural integrity of the building; T&M Associates, responsible for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing aspects of the boiler room; Hillmann Consulting, focusing on the environmental integrity of the building; and USA Architects, which is responsible for restoration and possible improvements to the building.
In addition, BDO USA is assisting the township in reviewing all insurance claims and navigating the FEMA claim, Progebin said.
“FEMA has been very, very helpful, but that’s a slow process and when you have to navigate with your insurance company and with FEMA you try to make sure everybody is on the same page so we don’t use a single taxpayer dollar that we don’t have to use,” Womack said. “That’s taking a long time. We’ve been very careful. We don’t want to spend one dollar of taxpayer money if we don’t have to.”
Parts for the mechanical room have all been ordered, Progebin said. The elevators are being brought to the site and the contract for roof repairs has been awarded, she added.
“They are looking at putting the elevators in sometime in March,” she said. “In May, they will be working on the roof, which should be completed in July.”
After the mechanical room, elevators and roof are done, workers can move forward with the rest of the restoration, Progebin said.
In addition, while the building is closed, the township is considering making enhancements to the complex, which may include relocating the nearby senior center to the municipal complex.
“We’re hoping to make a greatly enhanced spot in the complex for our senior citizens,” Womack said.
The municipal building would serve as a community center offering senior activities on a daily basis, Progebin said. In addition, she said, the space could be used as an emergency center, if necessary.
“It would be able to transition on a moment’s notice to an emergency facility that can be used as a shelter,” Progebin said. “While the building is closed, the township is hoping to take the opportunity to do this and deliver the best possible outcome with no financial impact to the taxpayers.”
The township solicited bids for grant writers to help secure funding for the enhancements.
Progebin said the township does have capital funding for the seniors, as well as about $400,000 in a trust fund that is earmarked for the senior center.
“Instead of using that money to update the existing building, we’re hoping to redirect the money to give them the best possible space, rather than trying to fix their current spot,” she said.
After Sandy, the township received a $500,000 grant to install a full generator to run the municipal complex.
“The municipal complex already has the infrastructure in place,” Progebin said. “The generator is there, the space is there and we’ve already addressed the storm water issues. Building a stand-alone resiliency facility that doesn’t get used regularly seems wasteful. This seems like a much more cost-efficient plan.”
She said the plan would then free up the senior center, which could possibly be used as a neighborhood youth civic center, but the proposed plans are still under discussion.