Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo said he has a vision that the borough's new town hall will be located in Mallette Hall, a Fort Monmouth building that closed last year along with the Army base.
Mayor Tarantolo said he believes the building should be given to the borough "as a gift from the federal government for $1," during Wednesday night's council meeting.
The mayor has said the gift would be justified because of the costs Eatontown incurred for decades educating students from the fort.
The borough hired architect architect Kevin Settembrino to perform an analysis of the cost to renovate the 60,000 square-foot Mallette Hall to a building that could house all of the borough's departments.
Settembrino's report shows that the renovation would cost the borough $15 million if it does not receive the building for free from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA).
Settembrino revised and now said he had broken down the costs if the move was completed in stages. Originally the plan called for the move to be done at one time.
The phased approach to moving into the building would take place over a 5-year period.
• The first phase would be done in 2014 and would include moving the clerk, finance and sewerage authority to Mallette Hall.
• The second phase would be done in 2016 and would include moving the fire prevention and recreation department to Mallette Hall.
• The third phase would be done in 2018 and would include moving the police department and court to Mallette Hall.
The two-story building would also require new windows along a portion of the structure, retopping of the 200,000 square-foot parking lot and a new interior sprinkler system.
Settembrino pointed out that some of the costs would be recouped down the road as the borough benefited from the addition of alternative energy sources. A new roof would support the addition of solar panels -- at a cost of $1 million -- but the payoff would be free power to the building and revenue from the sale of excess generated.
Mallette Hall does not have access to the geo-thermal well field that sits nearby. Settembrino said the new HVAC system could tap into the heating and cooling source and "substantially reduce operating costs."
Several council members have been opposed to the project and have said there is no way the borough would receive the building for free and would not be able to pay $15 million for the move. However, the mayor has been steadfast and has said he would like to send a letter to FMERA indicating that they would take the building only if it is given as a gift to the borough.
Mayor Tarantolo said he accepted Settembrino's report and that it was important, because the council "needed something to refer to in order to make a decision."
"I think we have a good document for that now," Mayor Tarantolo said.
The council, after a heated discussion on the topic, decided to wait until the next meeting to make a final decision on whether or not to even send the letter to FMERA. The suggestion to do so was made by Councilman Kevin Gonzalez, who said the current borough hall does not have a space issue and does not have an immediate need to find a new headquarters.
The council is split on that issue as well with some saying that the need for more space exists, while others do not. Mayor Tarantolo said there is definitely a space issue and feels that something has to be done. He said the council should not exhaust the possibility of moving to Mallette Hall without an alternative plan in place.
"I want to at least try this, unless somebody has a definite plan B that they can give to me at the next meeting," Mayor Tarantolo said.
Councilman Anthony Talerico said the borough should always explore possibilities other than Mallette Hall.
"I still feel there are some other options," Councilman Talerico said.
Councilman Dennis Connelly, who is also the borough's police commissioner, said "some departments are tighter than others," and that he would also like to explore other options.
He suggested that the borough look into converting its courtroom or council chambers into one space that can be used for court sessions and council meetings.
"We are one of the only towns that have both," Councilman Connelly said.
The council will revisit the issue of whether or not to send a letter to FMERA asking for the building for $1 at the next workshop meeting on Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.