At Town Hall, Overcrowding Tops Agenda

Posted: December 20, 1987

"Don't even think of parking here" reads the sign posted at the Town Hall parking spot of Monroe Township Mayor Carmen J. DiNovi Sr.

Although the sign may seem to display authoritarian humor, the architect who recently completed a feasibility study for a new municipal complex said that it is a sign of overcrowding, both inside and outside township offices.

The architect - Gary Kanalstein of Kanalstein, Timber, Danton, Johns, P.A. of Cherry Hill - presented the Monroe Township Council on Dec. 7 with a 200- plus-page report on studies his firm had made and recommendations for a new municipal complex. The $10,000 study indicates that the township needs to consider new facilities to alleviate overcrowding.

Currently, township offices are at Town Hall, 266 S. Main St.; the Town Hall annex, 313 S. Main St., and the municipal court/police building, 125 Virginia Ave., about seven blocks southwest of Town Hall, according to the architects' report.

Township officials say the offices are overcrowded and, because they are in different places, inconvenient for the public.

Kanalstein's firm produced several options for the township to consider. The one most strongly recommended is building a new complex over the police station on Virginia Avenue. The facility, estimated to cost about $2.55 million to construct, would have three floors of about 10,000 square feet each. Parking space for 192 cars would be provided. Sixteen more spaces could be provided by relocating a police garage/storage building to another site.

A second option calls for building a four-story building to the right of the police station. The ground level would be for parking, with spaces for 187 cars, and above would be three floors of approximately 10,000 square feet each.

The firm also outlined four other options for construction at the police station. The township also could consider building a new complex on township- owned property elsewhere, the firm suggested.

Other possible locations for a new complex, all on county-owned land, are on Janvier Road, Huber Avenue, Blue Bell Road and Sharp Road. Township officials said that three of those sites were in the Pinelands and that the township would have to get approval from the Pinelands Commission, as well as the township Planning Board, before building could take place.

"The larger, more available sites the township owns are somewhat remote," noted Kanalstein.

Council President Robert McDonald and other council members said they did not want to build a complex in a remote area.

"The bottom line for us is we have to be convinced of the proper place to

put this thing and the proper design," McDonald said. Many of the sites do not have water or sewers.

According to the study, the township has 19,840 square feet of office space and needs nearly 25,000. By 2010, the township will need 38,982 square feet of office space to house the staff and adequately serve the public, the architects said. If the council built over the existing 10,150-square-foot police station, it would need to construct only 28,832 square feet of additional space, Kanalstein said.

Kanalstein said that his staff had measured buildings and interviewed municipal staff before reaching its conclusions.

He said Town Hall offices are cramped and outdated, and have a negative effect on morale. In addition, he said, "the existing facilities lack adequate parking. It's almost nil." There are also problems with the heating and air-conditioning systems, he said.

McDonald agreed.

"We think this building's antiquated. The town's growing and larger facilities are going to be needed for the future."

In the report, the architects estimated that the township population of 27,000 would more than double by 2010, to 65,000.

"People are right now faced with the possibility of having to store records in their offices," said township administrator James White. "That cuts down on circulation areas and gives you less room to work."

Kanalstein said it would take 10 to 12 months after awarding a contract for construction to begin.

Township auditor Nick Petroni estimated that the tax rate, now 77 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, would increase by 8 cents for a $3 million bond issue to finance the construction.

White said the council has not discussed placing the project before the voters on a bond referendum.

The council is expected to meet with the architect again in January.

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