Hightstown Borough Hall Discussions Continue
The Hightstown Borough Council discussed several items concerning Borough Hall Monday, which will be elaborated on during a special meeting Wednesday night
During Monday's Hightstown Borough Council Meeting, the borough council briefly revisited the Borough Hall discussion during its Hurricane Irene Update.
Council members brought up several talking points, which will be discussed further at a special workshop meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Hightstown First Aid Building.
During the Hurricane Irene update, Borough Administrator Mike Theokas said so far Hightstown has received $848,957.21 total from the borough’s insurance company, Lexington Insurance Co., and FEMA. The borough spent just over $1.4 million for emergency appropriations last year.
He said the borough anticipates receiving more funding from FEMA in the near future, which will be discussed at length during the special meeting.
According to Theokas, as of Monday night, the numbers presented during the Sept. 18 council meeting stand.
It would cost between $3 million and $3.7 million to demolish and rebuild Borough Hall in its existing location. This amount would be reimbursed in full by the borough’s insurance company. The borough would pay a $500,000 deductible; however, the borough could then submit the cost of the deductible to FEMA for reimbursement.
Lexington will cover the new borough hall costs as long as the building is brought up to code and construction complies with flood-plain regulations. Under the policy, the insurance company will also cover the costs of temporary housing for borough administrators and police.
Some council members were perplexed Monday night that the insurance company’s tone has changed drastically from its initial determination in 2011 that the borough was ineligible to receive reimbursement.
“It’s just a lot to process that all of a sudden, oh surprise, look what we found,” said Councilwoman Selena Bibens.
Theokas said the borough’s argument that it could not reoccupy the building since it was not up to code brought about the change. He said it took time and support from the borough’s engineer and architect to get to that point.
“At the beginning…the insurance guy said, ‘good luck to you guys. Your damages are far less than your deductible. See you next time,’” Theokas said.
“But that would have caused us to move into a substandard building, and we challenged that and continue to challenge that,” he continued.
According to Councilwoman Gail Doran, the planning board voted against the borough council’s resolution to re-use the municipal-owned property based on the property’s location below the 100-year flood plain line.
During Wednesday’s special meeting, any person wishing to address the mayor and council will be invited to do so. The meeting will go into executive session after the discussion, during which time council will discuss contract negations for 415 Mercer Street and Shared Services.
Borough Engineer Carmela Roberts and Borough Planner Tamara Lee are expected to attend the meeting. Architect Rick Perez will also be invited to attend.
Councilwoman Lynne Woods said Monday, by her understanding of the special meeting, the council would discuss where the new Borough Hall will go, what kind of building it will be, and what the council’s vision is for that area.