BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Slightly more than two years after the Council introduced an ordinance authorizing the creation of a new municipal complex, the Planning Board gave its preliminary and final approval to the site plan for the project.

Except for a few minor changes, the plan looks exactly like it did when the ordinance was first adopted – in fact the plans and other documents submitted to the planning board were those contained in the Municipal Complex Redevelopment Plan.

Two major difference were noted. Township Planner Michael Mistretta said the building will be about “ten feet longer at each end of the building” than originally designed – stairways and room for utilities account for that difference. 

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The other difference is that rather than be built in four phases, the complex will be built in two.

Originally, Phase 1 was the building of the salt dome; Phase 2, building the new complex; Phase 3, creating a new commuter parking area, after the current municipal building is demolished; and revamping the new DPW area.  Now, Phases 1 and 2 will be done at the same time, as will Phases 3 and 4. Mistretta said that will save some money and cut about three months off the time needed to complete the project.

Check out the photo gallery to see the preliminary interior and exterior plans and more.

Charles Pratt, who lives in the home next to the current complex, told the board and Mistretta of the long-standing water issues at the back of his and his neighbor’s homes. The water table is an issue which apparently has not surfaced during test borings on the site and one he wants to make sure is taken care of before the complex is built.  A dry well with cracked stone in it has failed, and several years ago the former township engineer arranged to have a trench dug around the property and filled it with cracked stone to act as a drain and redirect the water. That drain has failed also Pratt said and, whenever there is rain, water pools in the back of Pratt’s property, floods his garage and his neighbor’s basement, he said.

Mistretta said some 16 test borings have been done on the site, but the geo-technical investigation has not discovered any water issues. Engineers have noted the drain and “it will be connected to our storm water management system,” using a 12-inch pipe, he said.

Bids have been received on the complex and the selection committee continues to review the bids and discuss details with the construction firms. The next step will be for the committee to make a recommendation on a builder and present their recommendation along with the other top bids to the Township Council.

It is not on the agenda for the June 12 meeting, although there is an executive session planned for that meeting with the topic, “Attorney-client privilege – Contract Negotiations – Municipal Complex.

After the meeting ended, Mayor Robert Woodruff indicated he expects the recommendation would be made no earlier than the June 26 meeting of the council, and possibly later.