LONGPORT — The borough is forming a citizens committee to help determine whether Borough Hall should be demolished and replaced with a new building after mold was found this past summer.
Mold was found in the commission chambers and Centennial Hall in mid-August after the discovery of failed HVAC equipment, Mayor Nick Russo said. Among the contributing factors are the age of the building and water that got underneath the structure after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
While mold remediation has been ongoing since the fall, Russo said other problems have arisen that have made city officials ask whether building anew would be a better option.
LONGPORT — Complete mold remediation at Borough Hall, including ductwork and heating and air…
“We’ve already put some effort in this,” he said. “But what happens here is you get into one project and you find more problems.”
Mold remediation in the commission chambers is complete and Centennial Hall is close to completion, he said. But the Police Department, also housed in Borough Hall, is a little more complicated, he said.
In the fall, the police were to be moved to trailers on site, but the plan fell through “because it couldn’t accommodate the mission of the Police Department,” Russo said.
“The remediation can’t be done with people in there,” he said. “Administrative stuff can be done in commission chambers, but as far as a holding cell, the Police Department has to come up with a contingency plan for a closed-off area.”
Another factor to consider is cost. In November, borough staff anticipated the mold remediation project would cost $1 million.
“I think that number is probably closer to half a million, or maybe around that number,” he said.
So far, about $67,000 has been spent on mold remediation, said Jenna Kelly, finance officer for the borough.
The cost to build a new hall is unknown, but Russo said an estimate he got about 10 years ago was about $8 million.
“Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration in this decision,” said alternate borough solicitor Pat Agnellini. “The building should be salvageable. It certainly would be cheaper to fix it than to tear it down and rebuild it. The question I have is, what building do you build? What does Longport government look like in 10 years given everything that the state is trying to do with respect to consolidating municipalities and services in municipalities? If you build a building that covers everything it covers now, only to find out five years from now, you’re not covering all services, that is the challenge.”
Russo feels the same way.
“My position would be to try to salvage this building,” he said. “I think it’s structurally sound and it has historical significance.”
Borough Hall was built in the 1920s, originally as the Betty Bacharach Home for Afflicted Children.
“If we’re going to stay in this building, in my opinion, I just felt that the decision was too important to make without input from the public,” he said. “I think it’s worth it to continue to invest in this building because in the long run, it’ll be cheaper.”
About 24 people volunteered to be on the committee, the mayor said. He’s in the process of creating an agenda for the first meeting, but doesn’t have a date set yet.