SOMERVILLE – The long awaited construction of an emergency services complex took a big step forward this week when the borough council approved an agreement with a national company to build the facility and then lease it to Somerville for 40 years.
“This is a big investment in our future,” said Mayor Dennis Sullivan.
FD Stonewater, a national government facilities developer based in Arlington, Virginia, design and build the complex at the corner of Gaston Avenue and East Cliff Street which will house the borough’s police department and regroup the Somerville fire companies.
The mayor assured citizens that the project will be done “at no cost to taxpayers” since it will be financed by the redevelopment of the Payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) in the borough.
The borough is now collecting three or four PILOT projects – new construction for which developers pay a fee, instead of property taxes, over a period – and three more projects will go live soon, Sullivan said.
“It will be more than enough,” said the mayor.
It would “be nearly impossible” for the borough to commit to the complex, as it could negatively impact the borough’s debt and bond rating, Sullivan said.
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He estimated that construction, once started, would take 30 months, putting the completion date in 2024. But, he added, that date is “not 100% in stone.”
At the end of the lease with FD Stonewater, the property will revert to the borough.
“It’s an exciting time,” Sullivan said.
A new complex of emergency services has been a goal of district officials for decades.
The borough fire department is spread over three fire stations located on East Main, West High and Warren streets.
And the borough’s cramped Police Department is housed in a former brewery on South Bridge Street. Once the police department has moved into the new complex, the borough will explore the redevelopment of the South Bridge Street site.
The borough purchased the 1.77 acre property on the west side of Gaston Avenue at Cliff Street, the former site of the Gaston Avenue bakery, for $ 1.4 million in 2018. The funds for the purchase came from a property tax settlement with Robert Wood Johnson University. Somerset Hospital a few blocks away.
FD Stonewater has developed or managed projects across the United States for the Federal Government and the States. The company developed an FBI field headquarters in Atlanta, a Coast Guard air station in Corpus Christi, Texas, and was the director of construction for the US Drug Enforcement Agency headquarters. FD Stonewater has rented the seat of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the federal government, among other projects.
Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his Somerset and Hunterdon Counties articles, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.