VINELAND – The city is going ahead with constructing a new fire headquarters and Public Works building, but in a change of plans Vineland will handle the $21 million in financing itself.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously decided not to authorize a lease/purchase agreement with the Cumberland County Improvement Authority. An ordinance to authorize an agreement was introduced in June.
State government already had approved the concept, which has been used before by the city and authority. The authority would have done the bonding, with lease payments from the city for using the new facilities securing the debt payments.
Council members did not comment on their votes to reject the ordinance.
Afterward, Solicitor Richard Tonetta explained the idea was dropped because Vineland and the CCIA could not settle on contract terms. Cooperation continues between the city and authority in other areas, both sides say.
Business Administrator Robert Dickenson said the city chief financial officer already is talking with its own bond counsel about how to proceed. Vineland will have to make a $1.05 million down payment to start the bonding process, he said.
Dickenson said the switch should not delay the rough timetable the city has.
“We were planning on, end of year, going out for demolition (bids), early Spring demo, then, construction,” he said.
One change is that the city now intends to hire a full-time construction manager instead of a part-time manager, he said.
The Fire Department component involves constructing an approximately 35,000-square-foot station at 200 North West Boulevard. The former Limpert Brothers factory that now is there would be razed to make way for it.
Fire headquarters now is at 110 N. Fourth Street.
The other project is a 5,000-square-foot building at the existing Public Works Department facility at 1086 E. Walnut St.
The N.J. County Improvement Authorities Law allows municipalities to work with authorities on projects like these. The advantages include experience authorities bring, ranging from design work to construction management; that project debt is not counted as the local government’s net debt; and that authorities can have better leverage in financial markets when negotiating bond terms.
Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.
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