BARNEGAT – The Township is in the process of selling the old firehouse on East Bay Avenue, although some residents would rather that the township keep it.
The building, located at 686 East Bay Ave., was put up for bid. The minimum bid was set at $50,000. The highest responsive bid was $56,551. It was made by H. Kenneth Matthews, 1001 Hawaii Dr. in Forked River.
A few residents commented on the sale during the public portion of the meeting. Since social distancing is required, the town hall is closed to the public and residents email their comments.
Amanda Sapp, a resident who lives nearby, asked if the new owner could be required to restore it rather than knock it down.
Mayor John Novak, who said he lives near the building, thought that request made sense and had it sent to the new owner.
A former committeeman and mayor, Bill Neyenhouse, thought it should remain owned by the town. He said that it is a 90-year-old building with historic significance. He wanted the Barnegat Historic Preservation Commission to have input in its future. He suggested that the old fire house could be reworked into a cultural site that can host recreational events.
The governing body disagreed. If the building houses arts and cultural events, then it might compete with businesses that are doing the same thing, the mayor said.
As for the future of the building, the committee wanted to make sure to spend the township’s tax money wisely. In order to update the building and run programs out of it, money would need to be spent, and Novak said he wasn’t sure if it would be worth the cost to do this for programs that might only benefit a small portion of the population.
“We are the stewards of the public’s resources,” he said. “Some things are best left to the private sector.”
Councilman Pasquale Pipi said that people said the building was supposedly worth more than $300,000 but the township received no bids on it when it was priced at $125,000.
Business Administrator Martin Lisella said ten potential buyers came to look at the building.
“A building is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it,” he said. He taught real estate assessment in Florida. Based on its square footage, this building could be worth $300,000. However, given how much work would need to be done to make the building usable, the actual cost would be far less.
He agreed that the better role for the building would be a business that could breathe new life into it rather than a community center that only a handful of residents would use.