UNION COUNTY, NJ — The county Board of Commissioners will provide $16.75 million to the Union County Improvement Authority to plan and design a new county government complex in Elizabeth. The county is still in negotiations to select a developer for the project.

The two buildings are planned for the site of the county’s motor vehicle services division at 61-99 West Grand St. County officials have said the project will let the county move all its administrative services into two new buildings, and is expected to cost more than $100 million but eliminate rent the county pays for existing office space. 

On Thursday, commissioners approved monies from the county’s capital improvement fund and capital surplus for the project.

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Director of Finance Bibi Taylor said $15 million will go toward redevelopment, and $1.75 million will fund the administrative work “ensuring the developer actually constructs the building consistent with our bridging documents.”

The funding comes amid a lawsuit over the project in which a Wayne-based construction company claims the county violated state bidding laws. Dobco Inc. claims that by soliciting bids through the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, Union County and the Union County Improvement authority are bypassing New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law.

Also on Thursday, commissioners appointed Terri Hudak, who is the wife of Commissioner Christopher Hudak, to the improvement authority for a five-year term.

While Christopher Hudak abstained from the vote, Garwood resident Bruce Paterson questioned the appointment and asked all the commissioners to vote against it. “It’s just corruption in my eyes,” Paterson said.

Commissioner Chairman Alexander Mirabella defended Terri Hudak’s appointment, saying she is well qualified. 

“I don't think the fact that she is married to a commissioner should preclude her service and wouldn’t preclude anyone else’s service either,” Mirabella said.

The rest of the commissioners voted yes on the appointment.

What’s next? 

In a phone interview, county spokesman Sebastian D'elia said the $16.75 million represents all the money so far encumbered for the project, but commissioners are anticipated to authorize $120 million in bonds for the government complex April 22 under measures — this one and this one — up for a public hearing at the board’s next meeting.