BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Mayors from towns in New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional District gathered at the township library Saturday morning to meet with Rep. Tom Malinowski, (D-7) to talk about their priorities and how Washington can help local municipalities tackle public works projects like roadway repairs and infrastructure improvements.
The central New Jersey congressman invited the mayors to breakfast to speak about the next cycle of congressional appropriations and grant opportunities that could benefit municipalities in the district
Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan said it was time well spent because he had the opportunity to speak with Malinowski one-on-one about the borough’s plans for a new public safety complex and the possibilities of securing federal money for the project.
Last month the Borough Council designated an Arlington, Va. real estate advisory firm as the redeveloper of the 1.1-acre site on Gaston Avenue.
FD Stonewater's portfolio includes several expansive facilities occupied by federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Institute of Health, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Granville Brady, Borough Council president, said the Somerville project will be the company's first local government project.
Still in its conceptual phase, the emergency service facility is expected to combine the borough's police department, fire department, and the Somerset County 911/emergency call center.
Sullivan said the borough has signed a Memo of Understanding with Somerset County to relocate the emergency call center from the county complex in downtown Somerville to the new Public Safety complex.
“We need revenue. They need the space,” Sullivan said.
FD Stonewater has been hired for its expertise in designing and managing, as well as financing, according to Colin Driver, the borough's director of Economic Development.
Representatives from FD Stonewater will attend the Tuesday, Jan. 21 Borough Council meeting for a presentation, according to Sullivan.
It will take several months to come up with recommendations and designs for the multi-purpose building; it may require multiple stories to maintain the separate functions of its occupants, according to several borough officials.
Sullivan said residents and members of the volunteer fire companies will be consulted during the planning process, which is expected to take several months.
No estimates have been calculated, but it is expected that the costs of the facility will be financed with bonds by the borough and Somerset County, with debt service payments provided by Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, which earlier this year agreed to contribute yearly payments of $311,000 through 2023 to the borough in lieu of paying taxes, according to Brady. The hospital is a tax-exempt institution and is not required to pay local taxes.
Sullivan said he expects to meet again with Malinowski when the congressman will be in his Somerville district office.
“He’s going to be in Somerville in next few weeks to have office hours,” Sullivan said. “I’m going to ask him to give me 30 minutes and take him to the site on Gaston Avenue, our ‘field of dreams.’”
Three vacant buildings on the site were demolished in the fall, including the former Gaston Avenue Bakery.
“We’re on Washington's radar,” Sullivan said. “They have found us with his (Malinowski) active presence that he’s shown over the first year of his term. His office is here, and he said today that he wants to be involved at a grass roots level, it’s just fantastic.”
Sullivan, also a Democrat added, “He’s not just going to be here for parades which is very reassuring for Somerville and all towns in the Seventh District. We have an opening here, we have his ear and a commitment to work collaboratively with us. We’re very encouraged by that.”