By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — While quite a few developers expressed interest in the Officer’s Row housing at Fort Monmouth, only one viable bid was received.
At the Oct. 19 Borough Council meeting, Councilman William Johnson reported on a recent Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority Housing Committee meeting.
Officer’s Row, located in the Oceanport section of the decommissioned military base, is slated for housing. Johnson said that 17 developers expressed interest, but only two bid on the project, and one of those bids was not compliant.
Those results surprised Oceanport officials.
“We looked at the units in the Officer’s Row. They’re beautiful,” said Council President Joe Irace. “And now we only have two bidders?”
While the historic buildings look good, and are in good shape, the infrastructure is a sticking point for many. Mayor Michael Mahon said that the utilities connecting the buildings are not independent, so there may only be one electric line, one sewerage line, and one heater controlling several properties.
Without major work, that makes it hard to divide them up. Often, only companies that specialize in older buildings will want to place bids.
“We’re going to see this again and again as items are parceled off,” the mayor said.
Johnson also said that several proposals the board is hearing contain more housing than originally anticipated. Council members said that they were worried about this, since housing – particularly affordable housing – will place a burden on taxpayers.
“The board is shifting directions from creating jobs to bringing retail and residential development,” Johnson said. “We have to continue to be vigilant.”
Last week, Eatontown passed a resolution expressing concern about affordable housing issues with the fort property, urging FMERA not to approve some developments until these concerns are resolved, and asking other communities to pass the same resolution.
Mahon said that he would discuss the FMERA affordable housing situation with council in a closed session. He said there were issues specific to Oceanport.
Where did bulkhead go
Borough Engineer Bill White said that a recent inspection of Summer’s Park showed part of the bulkhead missing.
White said he visited the park shortly after the storm to inspect the damage, and saw the bulkhead looked intact.
That’s no longer the case.
“Subsequent to Sandy, someone came down and removed the majority of the cap from the bulkhead,” he speculated. It’s also possible that a later storm damaged it and tore it loose, or that some contractor looking for supplies took it.
But it’s gone missing since last October, he said.
“I was there after the storm. It was there,” he said.
Budget: 2014 will be lean
Councilman Joe Irace reported that officials are beginning work on next year’s municipal budget, and they expect as much belt tightening as possible.
Last month, Oceanport was hit with two unexpected expenses: a large overtime bill, and legal fees over a law suit they thought had been resolved.
If those expenses are passed on to taxpayers, then property tax bills would go up nearly two cents per $100 of assessed property value next year. Irace said that they don’t want that to happen. Instead, they’ll be asking departments to keep their budgets as lean as possible.
“The mayor’s given us the directive not to pass that on to the taxpayers this year,” he said.