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Proposed ‘no cost’ library now has ‘extravagant’ price tag

Money growing in soil with house

The Holmdel Township Committee (TC) is planning to bond $2 million for a library in the Bell Works building. While Holmdel is excited about the prospects of a new library, the TC needs to address critical issues and explain costs before they commit our tax dollars.

The Redevelopment Agreement between the Township of Holmdel and Somerset Holmdel Development (June 10, 2014) specified a minimum of 20,000 square feet for a public library. Yet, the current lease (as of Dec. 13, 2016) with Somerset Development specifies 17,759 square feet. This loss of space (2,241 square feet) is almost equivalent to the size of the present library and affects the number of meeting rooms or other amenities available to the public. The loss of space has a present market price of $1,848,825.

Another issue is the lack of detailed explanation of the costs for building out this space (which was originally described as no cost to the township). The new $2 million cost is extravagant and would expect a freestanding building for this amount. Cost-effective design with emphasis on cost reduction and cost engineering should be done.

Of major concern is the lease expiration date. The Redevelopment Agreement terms do not agree with the Lease Expiration date. A transfer of space ownership as done in condo agreements provides a better framework and eliminates issues of expiration, hours of accessibility, termination clauses, etc. This would solve the township restrictions of signing leases greater than 50 years.

A 30-year lease has significant cost to the taxpayer and equates to a $2.3 million loss at 0 percent inflation and a $10.2 million loss with inflation as calculated by Net Present value. Condo agreements without dedicated parking will have library patrons parking far from the entrance since the closest spots will be filled by commercial tenants. If this library is really for the residents of Holmdel/Monmouth, this does not work for our seniors or our families with preschool children or busy parents.

Somerset Development presented a $1 million check to the Holmdel TC to be used toward the new library. At the next township meeting, the Library Bond Ordinance was introduced at $2 million, which is $1 million more than previously stated by the TC.

This additional cost increases the bond financing costs and affects Holmdel’s ability to secure capital for operational expenditures, including road repair, snow removal, replacing Fire Company No. 1, etc. It will encumber the Board of Education’s “2020 Initiative” for school improvements (since the school district lost funding as part of the PILOT and is depending on the township funding for these upgrades). Holmdel taxpayers will assume the risk by bonding for money “donated” by Somerset.

Bottom line — details matter.

Between $4,148,825 to $12,048,825 are at stake if Holmdel doesn’t do a better job in negotiation.

A public library at Bell Works has significant value to Somerset and its tenants; attorneys, engineering and other professional efforts add significantly to project cost; Bell Works is reportedly at over 60 percent under contract; and Toll Brothers is rapidly completing 225 residential units.

Holmdel was promised a free, minimum 20,000-square-foot library with no expiration or restrictions and parking nearby and not at the back of an 8,000-space parking lot. Let us make this a win-win and transfer the ownership of space to Holmdel so we can make this library a reality. A dozen reserved spaces for library patrons, closest to the library entrance should address the accessibility issue. A simple contract that transfers the space ownership will get us past this hurdle and enable a new library to benefit all.

Scott Goldstein
Holmdel

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