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Montgomery News
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Montgomery Township
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Monday March 19, 2018


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Convatec Purchase and New Township Complex Costs Challenged

After reading about the Township plan to purchase the 45 acre Convatec property on Route 206 and Orchard Road and transform it into the new municipal complex, Township resident Harold Wasserman questioned the Township Committee on high taxes. Wasserman contends that with millions at stake, the $5.9 million Convatec purchase should be put to a public vote in November.

"You are never going to convince me that what you are proposing to do is cheaper than fixing this building," he told the administration.

Mayor Ed Trzaska said the township's current headquarters was built in the mid-1960s and Montgomery "did get 50 great years out of it." Initially the Township Committee began discussing a renovation for the municipal complex in 2014, but Mayor Trzaska says a few problems with the site were acknowledged then. "Operating costs and emergency capital costs of the building were rising. But we looked into renovating it to get this building prepared for the next 20 to 30 years," he explained.

Township Administrator Donato Nieman says a new township/police headquarters is necessary as soon as possible, and the cost of renovating the existing complex just south of the Belle Mead-Griggstown Road and Route 206 intersection would have been $15 million. Nieman said the township has grown up but the facilities to service the community have not. For example there is no separate room for a female police officer, if one was hired, to change or dress for work.

Mayor Trzaska said a fiscal process and not the physical planning is in order, following an approved ordinance outlining the purchase with Somerset County involvement in October of 2016.
"We have not done the due diligence, we've not done the planning and we've certainly not made any decisions on moving Town Hall to that location. We're still figuring out what to do, but we do know the estimates for work on the current building was high enough that we needed to step back and figure out what alternatives were possible for us. We are going to continue to assess what this building can be. We need to go through that process and it will take quite a while," Trzaska said.

As part of the Convatec purchase Montgomery wants to preserve the grassy knolls on the west of Route 206 down to the property's parking lots. The mayor said some of the $5.9 million would come back into the township accounts from the Open Space Trust Fund. The question on the future home of a Public Works facility remains open-ended for now.

Wasserman said that needs to be determined before Montgomery spends $5.9 million this fall to buy the property.

Nieman says if the township has possession of the property it may be cheaper to demolish and build anew at the site instead of renovating the buildings suited for laboratory space.

"Part of the reason we've looked into a new municipal building is the limitations on this property and the cost of renovating. That 45 acres is the last large tract of land in the sewer service area in this community and it is important for the municipality to get control over it," Nieman said.

Trzaska said it's imperative the township control this because many former office complexes around New Jersey aren't used anymore. Their purchases usually turns into a zoning issue "When people try to build something totally inappropriate."

Township Committeewoman Christine Madrid told residents if a purchaser of that site considered building townhomes they could make a strong case for consistent use in that location, as a new townhouse development was recently built across the street.
Convatec's former site was on the market for nearly five years. 

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