Teaneck Council split on financing renovations for the old police building — News -

Teaneck Council split on financing renovations for the old police building - News -

Teaneck Council split on financing renovations for the old police building

danielle parhizkaran/staff photographer

Crews have been working all summer on the renovation of the old police department building. The project will connect the former police building to the municipal building.

TEANECK — A bond ordinance to finance the completion of the renovation of the former police building in Teaneck failed to pass last week, with the council split on whether to borrow the additional $475,000 in funds for wiring and furniture.

Work has been underway all summer on the vacant building, which once housed the police department and has been closed for nearly two decades. When complete, Teaneck’s building, zoning and health departments will be moved out of the municipal building’s basement. Residents will be able enter the renovated building through a lobby in the new area connecting the former police station and the municipal building, where an elevator will provide access to the floors of each building.

Council members all expressed a desire to finish the renovations at the Sept. 23 meeting, but were divided on bonding for the additional money, with some on the governing body arguing that all of the necessary improvements should have been covered under the original $3.5 million price tag.

Mayor Lizette Parker and councilmen Mohammed Hameeduddin and Henry Pruitt voted in favor of the ordinance. Deputy Mayor Elie Katz and councilmen Jason Castle, Alan Sohn and Mark Schwartz voted against it.

«We need to finish that old police building. In going back and looking through the details, the documentation, the minutes, and in looking through the video, looking through the articles that were published contemporaneously, what we were told as a council and as a community is that this building would cost $3.5 million and that that estimate was a conservative estimate,» said Sohn.

In an ordinance passed in 2011, Sohn said the document was «very clear in using the word ‘all.’ That it covered all of the construction costs, all of the equipment, all of the furniture. We need to understand what changed from February 2011 to September 2014.»

He added that he hopes the council can locate funds from other sources to complete the building.

Castle explained that he couldn’t support «burdening the taxpayers with an additional $475,000,» and that he, too, had been under the impression that $3.5 million was inclusive of all the necessary work.

Instead of bonding the money, Castle suggested cancelling six old ordinances where the projects had come in below what was bonded, and using the leftover funds to offset the additional cost of finishing the renovations.

«We know that the building needs cabling, we know that the building needs furniture, but we can’t encumber the taxpayers with additional bonds,» he said.

But Manager William Broughton said that after discussions with the township’s chief financial officer, it would not be possible to cancel the items and use the money in the 2014 budget year.

A resolution introduced by Castle to cancel the capital appropriation balances for the completed projects was tabled to allow Broughton, the CFO and the township attorney to review the measure.

Broughton explained that at the time of the 2011 bond ordinance, the $3.5 million was an estimate and the project still had to go out to bid.

«The key is bidding. There is no way that I as manager or any of us could know what a project is going to come back at once we put it out on the street,» he said, explaining that in the two years between the ordinance’s passage and the beginning of the project, construction prices rose.

The cabling must be done now, Broughton added, before the ceilings of the building are completed.

«We’re going to potentially increase the cost of having that wiring installed. We possibly could damage the ceilings once the contractor puts the ceiling grids in. I think it’s imperative that the council acts on this. We’re in a very untenable position right now and this work has to get done.»

Cabling and furniture were not included in the architect’s original proposal, Broughton said, a choice designed to save the township money.

Anthony Iovino, the project’s architect, was at the meeting last week and agreed that the $3.5 million was a «very preliminary estimate,» and that furniture and data wiring were not included in his proposal because if those items went through a general contractor it would raise the cost.

«My contract was clear that the data wiring and furniture wasn’t in there. We’re arguing over the word ‘all,'» he said. «It’s going to cost more if you don’t get it approved now, because the ceilings will be in. It’s our town. We need to get this passed. It’s simply part of the project, regardless of what’s being said here.»

Because the building will be used by generations of township residents, it makes better financial sense to bond the rest of the cost of the project over the life of the building, said Broughton.

«I do not think it’s wise to use money in our current year budget to pay for this project. These are items that are going to have a long life cycle. The residents of Teaneck that live here today should not have to pay for the entire cost of that project; everyone who gets to use it over its life should pay for it. Borrowing it is extremely cheap. We should take advantage of it,» he said.

Katz said that while he is a «firm supporter» of renovating the building, after speaking with residents throughout his reelection campaign, he does not want to add to the tax burden.

«This is an additional amount of money that was unanticipated for a project that I don’t feel that we should be asking the Teaneck residents to pay for anymore. I would like to see us find that money wherever we can find it, in whatever increments we can find it,» said Katz.

Before the vote was taken, Pruitt urged the other members of council to support bonding the additional funds.

«This whole process has become laughable,» he said. «We have this building over here. This is going to be done in December and we’re going to have people left in the basement in April, because we don’t have the wiring or the furniture in. We need to pass this money from somewhere tonight. Otherwise we’re wasting time and money.»

Parker said she felt it is «irresponsible» to spend $3.5 million on renovations and not spend the additional money to furnish it and install wiring. «I can’t say for sure that all residents approve of that building, but what I can say is this: most residents would not want us to spend three and half million dollars and not do what is necessary to properly utilize that building. For that reason I will be supporting this ordinance as I’ve supported this project from beginning to end and I implore my colleagues to do the same.»

The council is expected to continue discussing the project at its next meeting, Oct. 7.

Email: burrow@northjersey.com

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