Byram signs off on floor plan for municipal complex

Byram. Some question the wisdom of eliminating a walkway between township offices and the police department. But others said the new plan increases storage and meets other functionality requirements, and has the support of the police chief.

| 04 Aug 2020 | 05:35

The Byram Township Council approved the new version of floor plans for the municipal complex.

Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said administrators and police liked the new version of the plans. The council now needs to authorize the next phase with the designers, the Nader Group.

Councilman Raymond Bonker said the overall square footage was reduced by 10 percent. He greenlighted the project, saying that it meets functionality requirements.

Councilwoman Cris Franco asked about the elimination of a walkway between the township offices and the police department, which made it convenient for employees walking from one building to the other.

The township manager, Joe Sabatini, said the side exit was eliminated but could be put back by adding a few feet. The cost of the police department was decreased by changing to a rectangular shape and eliminating the U-shaped building, he said.

Rubenstein said the new floor plan includes a staircase in the police department and the addition of 600 to 1,000 square feet to a storage attic. In visiting buildings in other municipalities over the past two years, he said, a common complaint was that there was never enough storage space. He said he generally liked the plan and flow, and the reduced square footage, of the new plan. Plus, the police chief is satisfied, he said.

Councilman Harvey Roseff asked that the floor plan be passed to the municipal building committee for advice on how to allocate space. The council has also passed the dog park survey to the recreation committee and the backyard chicken ordinance to the planning board for their recommendations, he said.

Councilman Jack Gallagher said it was good to involve the building committee, which might offer ideas about storage. But Bonker objected, saying the overall design already went through the entire process, passing through both the sub-committee and council. The township manager and team came up with an even better plan and recommended sending it to the architect, he said.

Rubenstein and Franco said the floor plan did not need to go to the building subcommittee for every little change, and that they should proceed.

Resident Scott Olson agreed that the building sub-committee should review the floor plan. He said it was ridiculous that people had to walk outside, instead of using a covered walkway, when traveling between the police department and the main building. He said he was displeased with the idea of a 30- to 50-year investment for a $5 million building.

Roseff said the council wanted to avoid being like the Blairstown building, with its poor flow and layout. Although people keep saying they might be able to make future adjustments, he said, the future becomes the present. Right now, he said, they have a chance to get some valuable perspectives that will be less valuable down the road.

In the end, the floor plan was approved 4-5, with Roseff asking for the building subcommittee’s feedback.

Gallagher asked to talk about the CO Johnson building. After some discussion, Rubenstein suggested having a joint meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 with the recreation and open space committees, where they can review 11 capital projects and work toward a list of priorities.

Dog park survey

The recreation committee reviewed the survey that will be sent to residents about the proposed dog park. Officials discussed whether the money would come from open space funds, budgeted funds, or a bond ordinance.

Roseff suggested the public be involved in deciding if taxes should be raised through the municipal budget or bonding, or if money should be taken from the open space tax fund, where property owners would not see a tax increase.

Bonker said it was important to make a decision on funding since tax increases are determined by the overall budget and not one item.

Rubenstein said the survey should go to residents of the whole town.