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Monday March 19, 2018


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Township Closes on Convatec Site

Work continues on 601 sidewalk

On September 7, Township Administrator Donato Nieman and Township Attorney Kristina Hadinger announced a step towards the new Montgomery Township municipal complex with the acquisition of 45 acres of the former Convatec site at Orchard Road, just west of Route 206 and across from 23 Orchard Road office suites.

The Township in partnership with the Somerset County Improvement Authority paid $5.9 million for the site. Mayor Ed Trzaska said some money could eventually return to the township from the Open Space Trust Fund.

Closing on the real estate transaction came up two weeks prior to the September 7 Township Committee meeting, but no decision was made in August on the extent of insurances for the new asset.

The Township has insurance for liability and loss for both buildings on the site. At the September meeting, Nieman asked the Committee if coverage for loss should still be maintained, "If the two buildings are damaged or destroyed," or should the township only keep the liability coverage.

Committeewoman Patricia Graham, said it is important to keep both. "We have to cover them for loss until we make a decision on what to do with the property," she said. Mayor Trzaska echoed her sentiment and said the due diligence process for evaluating the former Convatec site, structurally and for future use, will take a while.

Nieman said the next step is a meeting with Somerset County followed by the Township Committee's discussions, including weighing the costs of renovation for the existing 1980s buildings, the infrastructure, HVAC and energy efficiency versus all new construction on the site. "We will also discuss what uses the Committee wants to put on that property," Nieman said. Departments from Public Works and Police to the Clerk and other municipal offices need to be considered.

Township Committee also approved a shared services agreement between the Somerset County Department of Public Works' Division of Traffic Safety Services and the Township was also approved at September 7 meeting. The agreement endorses a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon System (RRFB) for the new pedestrian-centered project off of Route 601.

The Somerset County joint project with Montgomery Township Schools include curb ramps and a crosswalk, 250 feet north of the intersection of Route 601 and Main Boulevard at Skillman Village, from Montgomery High School, part of the school referendum in May 2016.

Township Administrator Donato Nieman said the result will be a pathway sidewalk from MHS to Blawenburg. The sidewalk portion abutting Skillman Park will be asphalt. Nieman noted that the Montgomery Cougars' home football schedule plays a role in determining construction times. Nieman says the Somerset County investment, "Is very desirable and has long-been requested. Kids walk from MHS to Blawenburg all the time, as they're allowed to go off-campus for meals. They walk primarily at lunch time and after school, and this makes a much safer path for pedestrians going to either Blawenburg or Skillman Park. Work will be completed by late December, weather permitting," he said.

The project will be done in three stages, two of which will take place from 9 am to 4 pm. The middle stage or Phase II, is to be done at night between 9 pm and 5 am.

Mayor Trzaska said that Phase II involves widening the bridge over the Rock Brook along Route 601. For the bridge work in Phase II traffic will be detoured onto Skillman Road, Burnt Hill Road, and Rt. 518.
Township Schools advised families with a statement on its website to expect bus delays of as much as "15 minutes or more." They also noted the need to curb the amount of car traffic. "Parents are encouraged to have their children ride the bus to reduce traffic at the schools."

The sidewalk project stems from a road safety audit along Route 601 conducted by the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, with input from Somerset County, Montgomery Township staff and the Montgomery Board of Education. The school district collaborated directly with DOT and county officials on a sidewalk design from MHS, the proposed layout for MHS "student-pedestrians," as well as older teens who drive and cross 601 to reach school.

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