Bridgewater Township finally appears to be moving ahead with the preservation and rehabilitation of the venerable Lane-Brokaw House, which dates back to the days of the American Revolution in the late 18th century.
The Bridgewater Township Council recently approved a pair of resolutions regarding grants that will aid in saving the structure, on Milltown Road, and which has also been known as the Lane-Voorhees House.
The first resolution authorizes the execution of an agreement with the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders to accept the 2016 Historic Preservation Grant for $85,660 for improvements to the Lane Brokaw House, plus the expenditure of $85,660 as a matching amount from the township’s Open Space Trust Fund. The second authorizes the submission of a grant application to the Somerset County Cultural and Historic Preservation Grant Program for $271,510 for the purpose of preserving “historically sensitive work” on the Lane-Brokaw House.
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Regarding the first resolution, Councilman Filipe Pedroso expressed concerns which he said were a matter of budgeting, not principle, regarding preservation efforts for the house. He said there had been a $100,000 budget shortfall in the past, with the total preservation figure rising to about $350,000 by June 2018.
“It has been a mess,” he said of the management efforts to preserve the home. “I would love to save this house.”
Council vice president Howard Norgalis, who chaired the meeting for the two resolutions after council president Matthew Moench had to recuse himself due to his wife’s involvement in preservation efforts, said that the $85,660 grant stands on its own, even if part of it is used for mothballing the Lane-Brokaw House, which has suffered from mold and other problems in the past.
Councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose, who has long championed saving the house, said she could provide more documentation afterwards. Township attorney William Savo pointed out that the grant is a matching one, with no additional funding put in.
Township finance director Natasha Turchan added that the money comes not from the budget, but from a referendum instead.
Pedroso countered that the money is still the taxpayers’ money, even if it is just a single penny. He said he wanted to know what assurances there were that the house will indeed be saved, and said it would be wasted money if the house is ultimately not saved.
Rose said the grant is for the mothballing and stabilization of the structure, and that to secure the second grant, the first one has to be obtained beforehand. The next step after that is stabilization of the home, which has also suffered from a damaged roof and electrical difficulties.
“It’s expensive, but the county is willing to give us the money,” said Rose, who added that the project will be managed by the township engineer.
Pedroso replied that he would abstain from voting on the first grant without a budget, and without knowing exactly what the money would be spent for. His was the lone abstention, with Norgalis, Rose and Councilman Allen Kurdyla all voting in favor of the first grant.
Concerning the second grant, Norgalis said it was about exterior work on the Lane-Brokaw House, and he asked to have that wording inserted in the resolution’s heading. Rose said the house is now on the National Historic Register, and that she is pleased matters can move forward, including repairs to the home’s electricity and replacement of its roof, along with mold remediation.
Kurdyla said the grants provide the level of support the county is looking for, with additional tax dollars not being put into the project.
Pedroso said he supports the cause, but still feels the project has been mismanaged. He abstained once more, while the other three voted in the affirmative.