Special Meeting April 25th Meeting Summary
We had a special meeting on Tuesday, April 25th. Here are the highlights of what we discussed.
Last night we announced that we intend to buy two properties - 217 and 225 Pompton Avenue, for the purposes of building a new public safety building. The cost of the land acquisition is $1.75 million.
As many residents know, our police department is grossly undersized for our police force, and the amount of police vehicles and police employee parking is starting to become an issue around the Civic Center. An analysis was done to determine if we could renovate the existing building to expand it to what we need, but it was determined that we could not renovate the building to meet the current and future needs of the force. We then directed the Township Manager to review whether or not we could move the police station to land that the Township, BOE, or County already owns. We did identify one site behind HBW middle school that could fit the police station, but the Board of Ed rejected the idea of moving the police station there. We determined that there were no other town owned sites that were suitable to move the police station, so that left us with finding a piece of privately owned property to purchase.
As was announced last night, we believe that the property at 217/225 Pompton is of sufficient size to move the police station to that location and could have the potential to fit another first responder building. Both the Fire House #2 and Rescue Squad buildings are undersized and need to be relocated. What departments/facilities will be moved to this site will depend heavily on analysis of the property, environmental sign-offs from the NJ DEP, and a review by the volunteer fire department and rescue squad on the pros and cons of the location.
The property is unique is that it is very long and has wetlands in one area. We discussed last night that it is possible, if the Township purchases this property, to build on one area and preserve the wetlands as open space. We could apply to Green Acres for permanent protection from development and we would receive funds to help offset the cost of the purchase.
Therefore, the Council last night introduced the bond ordinance to purchase the property. The second reading and hearing for that ordinance will be on May 15th. If you have a comment or question regarding the purchase, you should email the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings. It is important to note that Mayor Roman recused himself from the discussion of this property and vote as his house is located within 200 feet of this property.
Last night we also approved a contract to purchase the property. The details of the agreement include the fact that the Township is taking over the contract from a previous buyer. Some final details are still being worked out, but once the contract is finalized it will be posted publicly.
We also approved a $185,500 contract with our architect - Solutions Architecture - to begin the process after the close of the property to design a building and work with the DEP to determine the buildable space. Solutions Architecture is a Verona company that did the Verona Public Library renovation and has worked on designing police stations in other towns. You can review the contact as part of the documents that were posted on the meeting here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings. The designs of the buildings will be discussed in future meetings in public.
Members of the public did ask some questions during the meeting, including residents who live adjacent to the site. The Council and our Administration made a public commitment to residents to host community meetings throughout the entire process, to ensure their feedback is included during every step of this process.
This is a huge step forward for our community. There are very limited properties in Verona along Bloomfield Avenue and Pompton that are big enough for the police station and are available for purchase. This is an exciting opportunity to finally address the substantial issues we have with the existing police station that were identified as far back as 1978 - nearly my entire lifetime. I look forward to hearing the public's feedback on this potential purchase and future plans to move police headquarters. Should you have feedback, please send it to the entire Council here.