By Neil SchulmanOceanport — Later this month, the Borough Council is expected to vote to formally declare Maria Gatta Park the site of the next Borough Hall.
Initial estimates for the cost of the building stand at $6.5-$7.5 million. While the cost for the new building has not been determined, officials say they will be getting $3.6 million from FEMA, and could raise another couple of million from the sale of the Monmouth Boulevard land where the old Borough Hall, badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy, stands.
At the Sept. 3 Borough Council meeting, Councilman Chris Paglia said that earlier in the week, a site selection committee had decided that Gatta Park had advantages over the other site still being considered, on Fort Monmouth property. Oceanport had originally looked at five or six possible locations.
Paglia noted that in order to get money from FEMA, Oceanport neeeded to make a decision soon. They were already months past deadline.
“We were asked for an answer in April,” he said.
Earlier this year, a survey of residents at a town hall meeting on the locations revealed the majority wanted the new borough hall at the Village Center on East Main Street. However, Paglia said that analysis showed it made more sense to build a new structure, not try to adapt an existing one.
The Gatta Park location — the section by Port Au Peck Avenue, closest to East Main Street — could still help Oceanport’s downtown businesses by giving residents more reasons to go to the area, Paglia said. It can also give the borough an opportunity to help more with the sports programs at the park.
The borough hall would not take up any of the current athletic fields. Paglia said that it could be the first phase of improving the park, adding basketball and tennis courts, and improving the turf. Those are future plans, and would depend on finding funding to defray those costs, he said.
“Are we into naming rights?” he asked as an example.
Several residents at the meeting spoke saying they were concerned about the potential cost to taxpayers. Oceanport can’t guarantee how much it will get from the sale of the Monmouth Boulevard property.
Paglia said that, because they wanted to customize the building to the location, plans for it haven’t been drawn up yet. He said costs would be carefully considered.
“We certainly hear what the residents are saying,” he said.