Medford breaks ground on new municipal complex
|By George Woolston, March 10, 2020 for the Burlington County Times
Township officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at 51 Union Street to mark the long-awaited occasion.
MEDFORD ― After two years of planning, construction on the township’s new municipal complex is officially underway.
“It’s just great to see it finally come together. We’ve been working on this for over two years,” Mayor Chuck Watson said. “It’s going to be a great building, so it’s really exciting to get it finally underway.”
The new, two-story, 23,000-square-foot building, designed by Garrison Architects of Bellmawr, will be located at 51 Union St. behind the historic John Haines House. It will house a new library to replace the Pinelands branch of the Burlington County Library System on Allen Street on its first floor, and the township’s municipal offices on the second floor.
In October, the township awarded the Vineland-based construction company Ogren Construction an $8.1 million contract for the project’s construction. Ogren was the lowest out of seven bids received.
The township purchased the property, which included Medford’s oldest residence, the John Haines House, two years ago for $580,000.
Watson reiterated Monday the township has no plans to demolish the historic house and is looking for the best use for the building.
The mayor said a decision on what to do with the historic home most likely won’t come until after construction on the new building is completed.
The township has bonded about $6.5 million for the project and the cost of construction will not increase taxes, township officials have said.
The township, with assistance from the Burlington County Library System, will also be applying for a grant from the state to offset the cost of the library portion of the project. The state has some $125 million available for library projects through its Library Construction Bond Act.
Voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing the funds in November 2017, but libraries were forced to wait until this January for the state to release criteria and regulations spelling out how to apply for funding.
Watson said Monday the township is close to submitting its application for the grant funding, which just opened on Monday. The deadline for townships to submit an application is April 6.
The library space is expected to amount to between $4 million and $5 million of the project’s cost, which means the township could be eligible for between $2 million to $2.5 million in state grant funding.
Completed projects are not believed to be eligible for the grant funding, but township officials said they believe that since the project will not be completed before the application deadline, it should still qualify.
Despite the outcome of its grant application, Watson said the township is moving forward with construction of the new municipal complex.
“We’re going to still build, and we’re hoping the Burlington County Library System helps us out with some funds,” Watson said. “But we’ve been waiting for two years for the state to do their thing, we just can’t wait any longer.”
The township’s current municipal building is on North Main Street, and has been inadequate in providing the necessary security, accessibility, space and efficiency for quite some time, township officials said.
The new library will feature a technology room, a reading/theater area, a children’s library and study spaces.
There will also be a cafe in the building’s lobby.
The municipal offices will be accessible either by stairs or by elevator ― something that is lacking in the current municipal buildings.