BARNEGAT, NJ - The Township Committee just needs to pass the final reading authorizing the sale of the township property known as Block 250 Lot 23 and the deal is final. Ken Matthews, the prospective owner already has plans for what was originally a firehouse on East Bay Avenue.
Once the $56.5K sale finalizes, it will be the fourth property Matthews owns in the downtown area. The construction company owner has already pledged to keep the historical integrity of the building. Most recently, the Township used it as the Office of Emergency Management.
Matthews' promise comes with more than his word. The three properties he already owns are the Gold Duster, the old Frank Tanner Law Offices, and a grand Victorian home next to the Cox House.
“The Gold Duster was built during the Revolutionary War," shared Matthews. "I did some of the detail in there by hand.”
Once Matthews completes the work inside the historic firehouse, he plans to move his offices from the Gold Duster into the newly acquired space. The Gold Duster, located at the corner or East Bay and Route 9, will revert to a retail store.
In March, news that the 1920s building structure was up for bid, caused some local stir. Bill Neyenhouse, a former mayor and committeeman, accused the current leaders of intentionally burying the offering in a consent agenda. He said they planned to pass a “stealth resolution” concerning the sale of a historic building.
Neyenhouse went as far as writing a letter to the Office of the Attorney General, accusing the mayor and township committee of intentionally listing the proposal “to eliminate any public input or discussion.”
Amid the coronavirus crisis, the Barnegat Township Committee livestreams and televises its meetings. Residents are afforded to the opportunity to comment prior to the meeting, but not during it.
Mayor John Novak dismissed the ideas that placing the sale of the building on the consent agenda had any significance. At the time, he countered that the public could comment on anything, including items not on the agenda.
Neyenhouse continues to disagree even as the process comes to a conclusion. “I do not care for the way the sale was handled especially because there was no allowance for comments for the actual meeting,” he said. “ I feel like everything that was done was super quiet”
“I know Ken Matthews and the work he has done on his other buildings on East Bay Avenue," Neyenhouse continued. "I hope he will do as good a job on the old firehouse,”