Former library will be a location for Township services

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One stop shopping locations for residents who need various municipal services are being created through a renovation project to be financed without significantly raising taxes.

The now vacant former library building at 1490 Union Valley Road in the Township of West Milford municipal complex will be redesigned to house the Health Department and its nursing facilities; Planning and Zoning boards; building, electrical and plumbing inspector offices and fire marshal.

The second floor of the municipal building where some of those offices are now located will soon be housing the tax collector and finance departments.

They are being moved a basement area that does not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act required accessibility.

A resolution adopted by the Township Council on Sept. 5 expressed “sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Library Board of Trustees” and officially accepted the former library building to be utilized for municipal purposes.

In July 2014, the library board and township agreed to participate in a joint venture for the construction of a new municipal public library and community center at 1470 Union Valley Road.

The grand opening was June 17, 2017.

The former library building has been vacated and all contents have been removed, according to the latest council resolution.

It notes that the township took ownership of the former library via a deed from the West Milford Public Library Association on April 26, 1984.

It also said the township now has a need to utilize the former library building to meet the needs of the municipality.

An original rough estimate for the complete renovation project is $475,500, with most the work being cosmetic.

There is a highly visible effort aimed at transparency – with glass walls outside all offices so that people walking through the buildings can see the staff at work.

Councilman Michael Hensley urged the council to give the green light for start of the work soon, noting that the cost estimate is already $100,000 higher than it was last year and could rise again next year. Councilman Luciano (Lou) Signorino wants the work to be scheduled before winter begins so that out of work contractors can do the indoor work throughout the winter when they are not busy with other projects.

In the former library the wall that now surrounds the reception area will be removed and there will be no interior wall other than in two corners of the room.

File cabinets for storage will be in the middle area of the room for added efficiency.

At the entrance there will be a person to direct people to the areas to find the help they seek.

Much of the money for the project is coming from the failed “Redevelopment Project” of 15 or so years ago in the Gordon Lakes to Macopin areas.

A conference center was planned with a golf course as one element for recreation and revenue. Individual and group opposition killed the plan and the township sold the property for $800,000.

About half of that money was used to eliminate a municipal tax increase a couple of years ago but the remainder is available for the building renovations.

Township Administrator Antoinette Battaglia and Signorino presented the building renovation plans at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Township of West Milford Council. The plans were prepared by Architect Brian Murphy.

They said the former library will need a lot of electrical work upgrades to adequately supply the departments moving to the building.

There will also be work on floors and walls.

As the owner of a construction business, Signorino says he is aware that contractors charge a lot when they do government work and that disturbs him.

He said he will be watching the project carefully to assure that costs will be kept as low as possible. He thinks the original cost estimate by the architect might be a bit high and is looking to reduce the price if possible.

Americans with Disabilities Act compliance was always a factor in the planning, Councilman Michael Hensley said. Compliance Officer Janice Sangle has been and will continue to provide input to the council as work on the project proceeds. Passaic County has provided some grant money and there will be application for more funds with one of the major improvements in the former library being ADA accessible restrooms there.

Needed furniture for the new offices will be included as the council prepares the municipal budget for 2019.

The officials said they were anxious to get offices out of the municipal basement. Although mold and other problems were cleaned up, these locations “are still less than desirable,” Signorino said.

The Police Department was located there when the building first opened and their current facilities on the south end of the building were constructed later.

The officials indicated they will look to sell township-owned buildings outside the municipal complex such as the Johner building where the current office the fire marshal is being vacated.

Battaglia, Signorino, former Mayor Bettina Bieri and acting Mayor Tim Wagner served on the latest committee that finalized the latest plans.

Earlier council committees also addressed the needs to improve locations of the public services.

The current committee praised the West Milford Library Board for their ongoing assistance.

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