Looking to ‘RFP’ process to figure out Plan B for township offices

Joanne Degnan/The Robbinsville Sun The commercial building project on Route 33 where the township intended to buy municipal office space was halted after Roma bank announced it was merging with Investors Bank.

Joanne Degnan/The Robbinsville Sun
The commercial building project on Route 33 where the township intended to buy municipal office space was halted after Roma bank announced it was merging with Investors Bank.

Robbinsville officials have set a new July 1 deadline for developers to submit proposals for providing 10,000 square feet of township offices in either a new building or renovated space in an existing building. Municipal officials want to move in by spring 2014.

The township, which currently rents office space in the Sharbell building at 1 Washington Blvd. under a lease that expires May 12, 2014, had originally planned to buy the third floor of a planned mixed used condominium building for $3 million, but the project on Route 33 was scuttled by Roma Bank after its merger with Investors Bank was announced several months ago.

Now, with only 11 months left on its lease with Sharbell, the township is asking developers to present ideas for Plan B. Mayor Dave Fried told the Township Council last month that a few “interesting ideas” have been informally pitched to the town already, but he preferred to issue a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) so that the township has as many proposals as possible to choose from before making decision on how to move forward.

The mayor has not elaborated on the options presented prior to the issuance of the RFP, except to say that Investors Bank has submitted a plan to lease space in the existing Roma headquarters building or sell the township the property where the scuttled commercial condominium project was to be located for an “attractive price.” Under the latter scenario, the township would then own the entire three-story building and would have to sell or lease the two lower floors. The mayor said at the council meeting that he had serious reservations about the township being in the real estate business and thought the municipality needed to explore other options.

The RFP dated June 6, which had an original June 20 deadline that was later extended to July 1, states the township wants proposals for 10,000 square feet of office space in either a planned or existing building, and notes that the township prefers to own, rather than lease. The structure can be either a mixed-use commercial building or one dedicated solely for township use, the RFP said.

The building would house the Township Council Chambers (1,000 square feet) and be used by the council as well as the planning and zoning boards. The remaining space would be used by the following municipal departments: Municipal Clerk, Administration, Finance, Economic Development, Engineering, Zoning, Planning, Construction Permits  and Inspections, Affordable Housing, Recreation, Tax Collector and Tax Assessor.

The RFP states the building must contain storage space for municipal departments, a room for computer systems and servers, a reception area, two conference rooms, a common kitchen area, elevators and restrooms.

“The township will likely purchase a shell of building space and then go out to bid separately for fit-out,” the RFP said. “However, this will be determined at the time of selection and negotiation.

“It is the intent of the township to select an office space from the proposals submitted by respondents as part of this RFP process, and then to negotiate with the selected respondent for all final terms of the agreement between the two parties,” the RFP said.

Most of the municipal departments that would be moving into the new space are currently located at 1 Washington Blvd. The council meets inside the modular trailer courtroom near the police station and the larger planning and zoning boards hold their meetings inside the Senior Center.

At the June 13 Township Council meeting, the governing body voted to repeal the 2012 bond ordinance that authorized spending the $3 million for the original Roma project, including the issuance of $2.85 million in bonds or notes.  Because final contracts were never signed with Roma before the bank scuttled the project, the township never made the $150,000 cash downpayment or sold the bonds.

 

 


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