SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Borough Council will introduce an ordinance at its meeting Tuesday night to appropriate $1.5 million to acquire a 1.77-acre tract at the corner of Gaston Avenue and E. Cliff Street to build an emergency services complex.
The ordinance authorizes the borough to issue $1,425,000 in bonds to finance the project. State law requires any municipality to provide 5 percent of the overall appropriation, in this instance, $75,000.
The purchase price is $1.4M, according to Borough Clerk Kevin Sluka.
Negotiations to purchase the property began in September and have intensified over the past several months. The tract includes several vacant buildings – the former Gaston Avenue Bakery; a vacant residence behind the bakery building that faces on to East Cliff Street; and two vacant buildings further north on Gaston Avenue; a one-story office building, the other, a bank.
“There have been conversations for quite a while, so this is a significant step in making this a reality,” said Mayor Ellen Brain. “It’s wonderful news.”
The tract has been marketed as 85-101 Gaston Ave. and listed online by various realtors; at one time the sales price was listed at $1.95M. The bakery closed more than five years ago.
“For decades, the emergency services in Somerville have struggled with how to plan for the future,” explained former Mayor Brian Gallagher late last year when negotiations first began. “About 12 years ago, plans were crafted and different sites identified, but for one reason or another, all of those sites evaporated.”
“This property came on the radar a few years ago; our Emergency Services Committee, which is comprised of representatives of the borough’s first responder community, evaluated the site and came back with a recommendation. They were in full agreement amongst all the services – fire, police and first aid,” Gallagher said.
“They concluded this was an ideal location for an Emergency Services complex,” he added. “Their role will be to identify what facilities could relocate.”
There are issues with some of the borough’s emergency services buildings. Engine Company No. 1 is located in a flood zone, and the doors of West End Hose Company, which shares its building with Central Hook & Ladder, opens on to the borough’s Parking Lot #2.
The borough’s emergency services are scattered throughout town.
A firehouse on Division Street built in late 1800s was taken out of service a few years ago; West End Hose Company and Central Hook & Ladder Company share a building on West High Street; Lincoln Hose Company is located on Warren Street; Engine Company No. 1 is on the corner of East Main and Veterans Memorial Drive East; the First Aid and Rescue Squad is on Park Avenue within walking distance of Engine Company No. 1 and Police Headquarters are located at 24 So. Bridge St.
The ordinance will have a second reading and a public hearing at the March 5 meeting of the Borough Council.