It has been less than a month since the township of Howell closed on the purchase of the Global complex on Route 9, but already steps are being taken to prepare the future home of the municipal complex for its new tenants.
For the five companies still leasing space in the building, that means preparing to move into their new spots on the lower level of the building, while the township works to not only get their area on the second floor ready but also make repairs to the site as a whole.
Final plans for how the upper floor will work for the township employees is still being worked out, as is the decision of where meetings will be held in the building. Whatever the final outcome is, it is clear that the way the township operates will have a very different look when the process is done.
One of the people responsible for the layout of the building is architect Wayne Neville. Councilman Robert Nicastro said Neville will serve as "project manager as the process moves forward. "He's overseeing a lot of the construction element, a lot of the layout and seeing that we get the best layout," he said. Neville had previously been hired by the township to do a feasibility of what should be done for the township's future operations at Preventorium Rd.
Another point person on the project is Department of Public Works Director George Gravatt. Since the closing Gravatt said his team has begun working on minor repairs to the building including the front steps, while also preparing for bigger projects to come. One of those bigger projects includes a new roof for the building. The DPW crew has also inspected the HVAC units on the building and said that more repairs are needed rather than full replacements. This had been one of the major questions brought up when the purchase was first being discussed.
The DPW figures to play an interesting role in the development of the Global property. With much of their operations still on Old Tavern Rd. Gravatt said they have still been busy taking care of their regular maintenence work while also working on their newest project. That includes getting back to things like cutting the lawn and clearing brush with fall and winter just around the corner.
Once the move officially happens, Gravatt said he expected to have a crew assigned to the Global building and have the rest work out of the main location. For him, he will work from both sites. "My office right now is mostly my truck," he said with a laugh. "It's wherever the job takes me."
For Neville, the architect said by the time the new year comes the design work should be in place. At that point, the actual renovations will be able to get underway. All the drawings and measurements for both floors of the building should be done by the end of next week at which point the plans will be provided to the council and township administration for their consideration. The first township employees to move could be in their new location by the spring according to Neville.
He also said part of the reason the transition can happen so quickly is that there is not a lot of major work to be done on the interior of the building. "Once we visited the Global building we knew that a lot of it was going to be acceptable the way it is," he said. "The administration believes that most of the second floor can be used as is with some partition movement, some door movement and some changes in lighting. Right now they feel they're going to adapt to the spaces rather than change the spaces radically."
Nicastro, who has been a proponent of the project despite several contentious said he believes the township will be able to operate more efficiently once they are in the new location. The councilman said he understands the argument some residents made that the building is bigger than what the township needs even with the tenants downstairs providing revenue from their leases. "Even in that argument, that's still economically cheaper," he said of having many of the township's services all together under one roof. "With the efficiencies of being in one building, the potential to grow is there. Maybe some people say it could be too big and if it is we'll continue to rent more space."
In addition to the office space, Nicastro said Global also offers additional storage space whereas the township is currently paying to store items in other places. "Whether it's $600 a month or $500 a month, it's something that the taxpayers no longer have to bare," he said. "I know the governing body has requested that we immediately stop that practice and utilize the space we have now because the nickels add up."
Looking at what will be the future home of township offices, Nicastro said despite the disagreements, he was comfortable with the move being made. "My goal is one goal, to do what is best for the community, for my family and for everyone's family," he said. "In my heart of hearts I think this was the right decision. It was just a matter of could it be done."
The councilman also said he was committed to finding a good use for the Preventorium Road facility. "I personally said that if it was up to me, I don't want to see Preventorium Road torn down," he said. "If we could find a good use for it where the whole town benefits from it then we should explore that."
The next meeting of the Mayor and Council is scheduled for Oct. 18 at Preventorium Rd. starting at 7:30.