Only ‘really lawerly’ issues left on buying fort land

By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — The contract for Oceanport to purchase more than 13 acres on the former Fort Monmouth site for a new municipal complex is almost ready. Work is proceeding to prepare for the move, and the demolition of the old borough hall.

At the July 20 Borough Council meeting, Mayor Jay Coffey said that Oceanport was “really close” to closing the transaction, which FMERA, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization

Authority that oversees the development of the closed Army base, agreed to at its June meeting.

Coffey said he hoped to have the paperwork finished by the end of July, as only three items remained to be worked out in the contract, details with insurance, the trim of the buildings, and other “really lawyerly” issues.

Borough Administrator Raymond Poerio outlined the work the borough is taking to get ready for the move.

The buildings at the municipal complex will replace borough hall, the court rooms, the Oceanport library, the Oceanport Police Department, the senior center, public works (already there) and several other facilities. All of these were damaged by Superstorm Sandy and the offices have been temporarily relocated to other buildings for the last several years.

Poerio said employees recently went through boxes of documents that had been kept at the former Monmouth Boulevard borough hall, in preparation for demolishing it, and found about 125 boxes of records that need to be preserved.

Fortunately for storage space, almost all those documents can be scanned into computers and stored electronically.

“We estimated we have about 150,000 pages we need to scan in,” Poerio said. The borough is preparing a bid for the work. Once that is done, only two or three boxes worth of documents will need to be archived.

The next step will be to remove the furniture and some historic items that are housed at the old borough hall.

Because there is a working fire and security system at the building, the Port Au Peck Fire Company next door has asked if the could have it and install it there. John King of King Security in Oceanport has offered to transfer it with no charge for the labor involved.

The salt shed housed at the recycling yard will also be moved onto the fort, to the building the Public Works Department is currently using.

Poerio said he also recently met with Oceanport seniors to discuss the plans for their new center. Currently, they are meeting in a concrete building at Blackberry Bay Park that some borough officials, not very affectionately, call “the bunker.”

Poerio said the reaction to the building was well received.

“They were wonderful. They really were,” he said. “The concern was ‘when are we getting in?’”

The Fort/Oceanport divide
FMERA currently controls most of the land at Fort Monmouth, including roughly 430 acres within Oceanport. Since it’s a state agency, its control supercedes the borough’s.

But when parcels in those areas  are sold, they become officially part of Oceanport. Some so far include the Fort Chapel, fitness center and Russell Hall, and soon the 13.25 acres for the municipal complex.

But this is creating a weird temporary situation, Coffey said.

“You can go to church, and run to the fitness center, but you’re leaving Oceanport for 600 feet,” he said.

This has created a few maintenance issues. Oceanport doesn’t want to pay to cut lawns where it can’t collect taxes or control the land use. And FMERA has a limited budget, and would prefer to spend most of its maintenance costs on properties that are about to go up on the market, so prospective purchasers see nice scenery.

But after some complaints, he believes FMERA will be putting more work into their property maintenance “to ensure it won’t happen again.”