BARNEGAT, NJ -  Last month, the Barnegat Township Committee passed a resolution authorizing the advertisement of bids for sale of township property located at 686 East Bay Avenue. The building started off as the township's firehouse and ultimately housed other entities associated with local government. The first advertisement opened the bid at $125K. Not one individual or business expressed an interest.  The new minimum bid  opens at $50K.

Meanwhile, not everyone is particularly happy with the township's decision to let go of the historic building. Prior to this month's monthly meeting, resident Bill Neyenhouse sent in a letter to TAPinto's editorial team. The letter also included the statement Neyenhouse submitted to the township clerk to be read as part of the public comment section of the committee's April meeting.

Neyenhouse has a few problems with the idea of selling the firehouse, which he claims was done by "stealth resolution."  He not only has some procedural questions -but suggests the Barnegat Historic Preservation Commission and Barnegat Historical Society should have been involved in what happens to the building. Neyenhouse would like to see the historic structure preserved and made into a cultural and arts center.

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"Our township committee has always prided itself on transparency," said Mayor John Novak. "Quite frankly, anything that we do that involves the trust of the public and public assets, will be done in the most transparent and public way."

Quoting from Neyenhouse's letter, Novak said that he agreed that things like art classes, art shows, and other activities would be nice thing to have in the downtown area. However, Novak felt doing so would put under local businesses in competition with the township that doesn't pay taxes on its own property.

Novak pointed out that the historic building is in tremendous disrepair and needs substantial investments to bring it up to par. "We are the stewards of the public's resources, which includes this dilapidated and structurally dangerous building, " Novak continued. "We have to do what is in the best interests of all the taxpayers, irrespective of those who have a passion for art classes, art shows, and other activities."

Township Adminstrator Martin Lisella, who holds a real estate brokers' license offered commentary on the sale of the historic building. Based on his 35 years of real estate experience, Lisella challenged reports that a broker said the property was worth $317K.

"I haven't known a broker yet that would not buy a building that was worth $317K for a bid of $125K," said Lisella. "This building is now being offered at a lower price based on the tax assessor's review of the damaged property.

According to Lisella, conflicts also arose when the township committee turned the historic Cox House over to Ocean County. "The freeholders will be spending upwards of $1M to restore the Cox House," said Lisella. "That money will be spread through the county's expenses, rather than just Barnegat Township."