BARNEGAT, NJ – Few deny that Barnegat’s municipal plaza needs an update – but not everyone is happy with the proposed design change. Mayor John Novak told critics last week that austerity and cost-effectiveness were the driving forces in the selection process.
Barnegat resident Geralynn Dalton moved to the township two years ago. Among other things, she and her husband were attracted to the quaintness of the downtown area. Dalton says she was therefore taken aback when she saw preliminary plans for the new township building.
Aware that the Township Committee invited residents to send in questions for their July monthly meeting, Dalton had a few. She is now hoping others will take the same opportunity to speak up at committee meetings or other local boards.
“The rendering showing the new municipal building needs to be more conducive to our town,” said Dalton in her written comments read at the meeting. “Who picked this look, and what are the other options? It seems we never hear about things until after they are approved.”
Novak addressed Dalton’s comments by first sharing his personal experience in building his home in Barnegat. He wanted the look of an old sea captain’s house and something that would be an “in-period coastal architecture.” Novak stated the obvious – he would bear the costs for his selections.
“It was my house, my money,” said Novak. “And I got to pick the look.”
According to the Barnegat mayor, that flexibility changes when you are spending other people’s money. This would be the case when public officials make decisions at the taxpayer’s expense. They face constraints and restrictions even though some would prefer a luxurious setting.
“All you have to do is visit some town halls in New Jersey,” Novak opined. “You think you’re going into a world-class casino or a five-star resort.”
Barnegat’s new municipal complex will continue to house township offices, the police department, and the court/meeting room. The State Attorney General has particular requirements when it comes to the design of the police department. Likewise, the new courtroom must be built in compliance with directives from the Office of the Administrative Courts.
Novak said that other specifications regarding the fire code, ADA, security, and safety, all play into the overall cost and design of the replacement building.
“After all the protocols and mandates are met, we can make it look like anything we want,” shared Novak. “There’s only one problem. We don’t have all the money we want.”
While the Barnegat mayor admitted the building might not be as fancy as some might like, he stressed that local government officials are not reckless with taxpayer money. He stated it was the reason the township was able to use cash to buy a new fire truck.
“Our building is austere, cost-effective, accommodates all state requirements, and will be a very safe and very accommodating building,” Novak concluded.
Dalton feels her question was not really answered. The rendering shows the outside design of a building that does not reflect the charm of the downtown area.
“I am well aware of what needs to go inside the building,” said Dalton. “I wanted to know if there were other options for its exterior. I wanted to know who picked and/or approved this new look.”
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