RARITAN, NJ - The Raritan Borough Council is investigating damage done, and made worse, by recent rainstorms, including damage to the Anderson Street Firehouse and repeating flooding of properties on Columbus and Riverside avenues.
Council president Nicolas Carra met with five residents of Columbus and Riverside avenue who experience flooding in the basement level of their homes during heavy rainfall. One Columbus Avenue resident’s car was flooded while parked on the street.
This is a recurring issue that was first introduced to Carra during discussions about re-paving the road last year, he said.
Carra said he walked through the neighborhood with one of the residents in mid-August, when he was shown where the sewer lines flow, and where the possible cause of the issue could be. The flooding, he said, could be caused by a blockage of vegetation and brush where the sewer lines exit near Route 28.
Another cause, he said, could be a crack in the sewer line, where debris could have gotten into the system.
Some work was done to the area in 2016, which helped, but the resident is still experiencing flooding a few times per year, Carra said.
“It’s definitely something we’re going to have to look at addressing next year as a capital project,” he said.
Raritan Borough engineers will be investigating the situation before the council decides on a course of action. While the sewer lines run under homes, the homeowners need to be contacted and permission needs to be granted to pursue the investigation. Carra said he was continuing to look into the situation.
“We’re just waiting for our engineer to get back to us with where they think the sewer line goes so we know the exact properties we need to reach out to,” he said.
A letter will be sent to homeowners as soon as possible.
In addition, a hole in the roof of the historic Anderson Street Firehouse caused further damage to the building during recent storms. The Raritan fire chief sent photographs of drywall covering an antique fire truck that has been in Raritan’s possession since the 1800s to councilman Pablo Orozco, who is the liaison to the fire company.
Previously, the top floor of the firehouse was used for recreation storage, but since the space has fallen into disarray, the borough has had to pay for outside storage facilities. Instead of paying for outside storage, Orozco suggested they should invest in fixing the historic building before the damages are too severe.
“There are some things that we’re just not going to be able to replace, things that insurance is not going to cover,” Orozco said. “That old antique fire truck is one of them.”
The Anderson Street Firehouse, built in 1894, is one of two firehouses in Raritan. The building is used “as much as possible,” Orozco said, noting that it is often a stop on county history tours and a space used for town events.
Updating the Anderson Street Firehouse has been discussed for years, said councilman Paul Giraldi. What stopped previous councils from taking on the project was the great expense it will take to completely fix the space, he said.
“I agree with Pablo 100 percent,” Giraldi said. “That’s a historic building, and I think that one way or another, we should find the funds and fix it properly.”
In the past, historic grants and capital money supported the fixing of one part of the roof, and work was done on the first floor of the building, said borough administrator Dan Jaxel. The grants have been staggered, and previous councils, who discussed turning the second floor into a meeting room, were reluctant to put the borough’s capital funds toward the project.
Additional costs to update the second floor would be for the need to add an elevator and bathrooms, Jaxel said.
“I think it’s time for the council to definitely look at allocating capital money toward this then, if the grants aren’t going to be something that become viable for us to do what we want to do,” said Mayor Zachary Bray.
Putting capital funds toward the project could make the chances of receiving a grant better for the borough, Jaxel said.
The council said they will continue discussions on both the flooding on Columbus and Riverside avenues, as well as necessary improvements to the Anderson Street Firehouse.
“Neglect of (the Anderson Street Firehouse) is something that I don’t want to see happen, especially while I’m on council,” Orozco said. “I’m going to bring it up until we do something.”