Police Station Never Should Have Got This Bad

Cramped quarters results in cramped storage space. (Kristopher Burke, Barnegat Police Department)

I have read your front page article on the Barnegat Township Hall & Police Station in your December 23, 2017 edition of Southern Ocean Times. When I finished, I went back and read it twice more. Unfortunately, nothing in that sad story changed.

The crux of this problem is that full time Municipal and Police Department employees didn’t do their jobs.  The oversight personnel, the elected township officials, certainly didn’t perform their due diligence either.

This is a cart before the horse matter. There have been tremendous changes in Barnegat Township that have taken place in fits and spurts over the 40+ years since I was a kid and our family docked our 18’ Emerson Farley-built garvey in Budge Ridgeway’s slips on Woodmansee Avenue on Double Creek. Little has been done with the Township’s infrastructure to deal with all of the new construction and all of the new people who have moved in to Southern Ocean County, a large number of whom have landed in Barnegat Township.

Yet the Township Committee drafted, presented and apparently approved a $15 million bond issue when no one has come up with a determination of the actual needs, needs that will grow and need to be adjusted; a solution that is workable, well-designed, adjustable and efficient. And the township solicitor let them all do this? Why would they do that before the full planning and details of needs were developed? How did they know whatever it is that they propose would cost $15 million when it is obvious that no one there knows what they need, how the building that would fulfill those needs should be designed and constructed, do all departments need to be housed together, what future expansions should be planned on buildings that should be designed for expansions, and for how much money.

Barnegat Township has not finished growing, of that I am certain.  But substantial long-term planning is in order before the Township should be selling municipal bonds and starting construction on anything. The Township and County should have a ton of information about the growth of Barnegat Township over the past 20 years or so. Can’t a professional take that information and interpolate that data into what they think the town will grow and change into over the next 20 years and tie that into what new or remodeled facilities are needed? It would also be a good idea to further interpolate the needs an additional 20 years into the future so that likely Township needs can be planned and any facilities built or remodeled would be done in a way that expansion would be reasonable from both efficiency and financial reasons over time. It seems that someone should be doing this before the taxpayers in Barnegat Township find themselves repaying bonds that were sold and the proceeds used to buy and construct things that end up doing the Township, and its citizens, little good.

My business’s office has been in Moorestown, NJ since 1982 and the Town Hall there burned to the ground about 15 years ago. The Police Department was in that building along with all Township functions except for Water, Sewer and Public Works. At first, the town created what the police needed for the short term in the Public Works facility but the Town Manager and the Council were aware that it would be some time before a new Town Hall would be built so the Town leased office and flex space in a large office industrial park on the north side of town. The Council had discovered that the insurance on Town Hall was nowhere near the replacement cost. They recovered an insurance claim recovery of about $3,000,000 but, for years, the least expensive bid to rebuild Town Hall on the same footprint was $12,000,000.

I suggested that the errors and omissions insurance for the insurance broker should be addressed but nothing has been done. Why was that coverage not kept up to what would have been needed to replace that building? If nothing else, that should serve as a warning to our Ocean County town managers who might read this letter. Those managers should conduct an annual survey on replacement costs on all municipal properties and then confirm that the insurance policies on those properties provide the appropriate coverage.

Tax rates went up after Moorestown built a new Town Hall that includes a new library (remember those?), since the insurance settlement did not provide anywhere near what Moorestown needed to rebuild Town Hall. The town finally built the new Town Hall, including the library, for about $14,000,000 but the Police Department like their leased space and stayed there since that space is cost effective and the size and floorplan can easily be adjusted. The Police no longer find that they need to be co-located in Town Hall. How about that?

While all of this was going on, the Moorestown Township Municipal Court rented the Courtroom of the Borough of Maple Shade, a mile away, and that worked just fine. Moorestown’s Municipal Judge and Court Officials worked out of the leased space except for Court Nights.

The point is that perhaps Barnegat has an opportunity at this time to save money by merging and/or sharing a lot of township functions with neighboring towns as a way to become far more cost effective and efficient for the taxpayers of the Township. In any case, they should be planning on handling as much growth in the next 20 years and they have had in the last 20.

Lindsay Fuller
Beach Haven


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