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Sea Bright seeks to reduce construction costs on buildings

Staff Writer

SEA BRIGHT — Despite the initial $13 million price tag, the Sea Bright Council is looking at ways to shed costs on the construction of a community center, beach office and municipal complex.

During the Sept. 6 meeting, the council passed a resolution authorizing the borough to engage an architect to review the cost of the new facilities, which are currently subject to the results of a Sept. 27 referendum.

“As a result of that process, we would seek to establish a dollar amount that it should not exceed,” Mayor Dina Long said. “I wanted to acknowledge that more work needs to be done and money needs to be saved.”

Councilman Charles Rooney said regardless of the resolution, he expects the project to cost less than the advertised $13 million.

“We need to cut costs wherever we can,” he said. “I think the most important thing at this stage in the game is the projects get out to bid.

“We need to see what the real number is to build these buildings before we start taking them apart. Honestly, I believe the bid is going to come in at less than $12 million, and hopefully we get past the referendum and the projects go out to bid.”

The three referendums, if passed, would invalidate a trio of bond ordinances adopted in June that add up to nearly $13 million for new municipal buildings.

Business Administrator Joseph Verruni said along with the bonds and offsetting revenue, several other revenue sources will be used, including insurance money, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding and a settlement from a beach access settlement. He also said the project cost will decrease as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will fund the walkway and ramp leading to the pavilion building as part of the ongoing seawall replacement project.

The first bond authorized the issuance of $332,500 for the community center, with $1.4 million coming from other funding sources. The second bond authorized $3.9 million in bonding for the municipal complex, with a total of $7.9 million being appropriated for the project. The third authorized $1.5 million for the beach pavilion, with $3.6 million being appropriated.

The community center plan is for a two-story, 8,609-square-foot building that will also include storage space and the beach pavilion. It will be funded using $2.5 million from FEMA, $1.8 million from the beach utility fund and the remainder from insurance.

FEMA will also kick in $2.75 million, and insurance will fund $1.32 million for the municipal complex, with the remaining $3.9 million coming from the taxpayers.

Residents have said over the course of several meetings that the building plans are too elaborate and should be scaled down at a cheaper cost.

During the meeting the council also applied for a $100,000 matching grant from the Monmouth County Open Space Grant program for the Shrewsbury Riverfront Park, formerly known as the Anchorage Apartments.

Verruni said the council can apply in future years as well through the grant program for work that needs to be done on the park.

“They said we could subsequently apply every year to continue the phases,” he said.

The council also amended the approved 2016 budget after a new state grant has allowed the borough to the reduce the amount of surplus used.

Finance Director Michael Bascom said the borough originally applied for an Essential Services Grant through the state to supplement the budget, but the grant program was discontinued and the state was able to find an additional funding source.

“What we were uncomfortable with was the amount of surplus we were utilizing to make that budget balanced,” he said. “What we did was apply for an Essential Services Grant — our request was for $365,000, which was the maximum we were eligible for.

“The state worked and identified a different funding source and that funding source was able to afford us a grant of $416,239.”

The Borough Council adopted the $6.1 million budget earlier this year. The budget includes a $4 million tax levy.

Under the amended budget, the council will use $598,000 of surplus funds, a reduction from the original $1.015 million anticipated.

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