Behind a potted tree in the corner of Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey’s office lie stacked rolls of blueprints for a new City Hall.
Forty-seven pages of construction documents detail a two-story, 5,890-square-foot brick building between the fire station and the current City Hall on Dayton Boulevard.
But for the foreseeable future, those blueprints will likely remain untouched in that corner — or wherever workers can find space for them in the cramped current City Hall.
City commissioners voted 4-1 in June to pull funding for a new City Hall from this year’s budget — one of many cuts they made to dodge a property tax increase.
“All the commissioners are convinced we need a new City Hall,” Mayor Monty Millard said. “We were just reluctant to start construction when it would mean a tax increase in the middle of a recession.”
The city spent about $60,000 of grant money and $30,000 of its own money on the plans.
Red Bank never got far enough along to take bids for construction, but Dorsey estimates the total cost at $700,000 to $1 million over 10 to 15 years.
Commissioner Ruth Jeno, the lone vote against cutting funds for the new building, said postponing the project amounts to a waste of money and time.
BY THE NUMBERS
Money designated for new Red Bank City Hall
2009 budget: $170,000
2010 budget: $100,000
2011 budget: $100,000
2012 budget: Eliminated
Source: Red Bank
“We had set aside funds for three years for that building, and spent money on plans. ... If commissioners had reservations about it, they shouldn’t have spent all that money for something that’s lying on a shelf,” she said.
City staff has long outgrown the current building, constructed in 1967.
“A lot of our facilities are way out of date,” said Dorsey. “It was built before there was any concept of computers. We literally don’t have the space to file things.”
Storage and boxes of files have been relegated to a city-owned clapboard house next door. The building’s small kitchen doubles as the mayor’s conference room, and one public works employee works out of a utility closet.
Police officers use old firehouse garages as their squad room and locker room.
“We’ll do what we do to make this work as long as we can,” said Dorsey, “But it’s not always easy.”
Two years ago, the Red Bank-Soddy Daisy Charitable Foundation gave the city a $42,700 grant toward architectural and engineering services for the new city hall. The same year, Red Bank budgeted about $170,000 for the building.
When those funds weren’t used, some were allocated to other, smaller projects and the rest rolled over to city’s reserve fund.
But planning continued. The foundation added $17,400 for blueprints, and Red Bank put in $30,000 from the general fund. About $100,000 was budgeted in each of the next two years, but most ended up in the city’s reserves.
This year, just as TWH Architects finished plans for the building, all funds for the project were axed from the budget.
Dorsey doesn’t see how the project could restart without a tax increase or major cuts.
Jeno calls it a “missed opportunity.”
“I know times are hard, but if we don’t invest in Red Bank, how can we expect anyone else to invest?” she asked.
Millard insists the plans will be used eventually.
“If we end up building it, the chances are very good we’d use the plans already drawn. We just want to wait another year or so to see if we can bring more revenue into the city through sales tax,” he said. “It’s on our would-like-to-do list.”