Although they said a deal to purchase a building at 830 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City isn’t as lucrative as once believed, the Hudson County freeholders are expected next month to approve about $18 million for the purchase and upgrades to what will become the new offices for county freeholders.
The Journal Square building previously served as the back offices for Provident Bank. This move will allow the county to cancel some long-term leases for its operations.
“This is a good site and a good location that people can access by public transportation,” said Freeholder Chairman Bill O’Dea at the Aug. 9 caucus meeting. “It is in the area of Journal Square and will be part of the revitalization of that part of Jersey City.”
This is the second significant purchase of property the county has made in the last decade. Previously, the county spent $40 million to purchase the former Block Drug building complex off Montgomery Street, into which a number of key departments including Human Services and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department operations were moved.
“This is a good site and a good location that people can access by public transportation,” said O’Dea.
Freeholder Chairman Bill O’Dea said the Bergen Avenue purchase, while not as good a deal as first envisioned, will save the county money significantly. The $18 million price tag is about half of what it might cost the county to construct a new building.
The county had hoped to purchase the Bergen Avenue property with its upgrades for less than $12 million.
Deputy County Administrator Laurie Cotter also said that the county may have less space in the building to lease out to the city of Jersey City than first anticipated, which would reduce revenues to help pay off bonds on the purchase and maintenance.
The new building will, however, consolidate county operations by centralizing freeholder operations as well as providing officers for the Hudson County Improvement Authority, Health and Human Services, the County Engineering offices, Community Development, and other services. The county can move these departments out of inefficient office space at the Meadowview campus in Secaucus to a more centrally located and modern office space in Journal Square. Some operations will be moved over from other rental properties on Montgomery Street.
The county will pay about $15.76 million in bonds to cover the purchase of the property, which will include a variety of improvements that the county will not have to make, and then will do additional work after taking over the property.
O’Dea said about $2 million is being allocated to cover the costs of renovations, although the county would expend about $55,000 on engineering reports to determine what work needs to be done.
The deal will also include 150 spaces of surface parking, making it even more attractive.
O’Dea said this will provide a lot of opportunity to realign the county offices.
When the county moves offices at the Meadowview campus in Secaucus to the new facility in Jersey City, then operations currently located at the Duncan Avenue offices for the Hudson County prosecutor can move to Meadowview. This will leave the Duncan Avenue property for development as the new clubhouse for the county golf course, currently under construction nearby.
If possible, Jersey City municipal operations may relocate some offices from 30 Montgomery St. to the Bergen Avenue site, renting space from Hudson County for essentially half the rate it spends today.
O’Dea said the City of Jersey City could save as much as $500,000 a year in rent, and the HCIA will see a similar savings per square foot if it switches offices.
Also envisioned in the plan would be the moving of the Hudson County Improvement Authority offices to Bergen Avenue from the current rented offices on Summit Avenue in Jersey City.
Freeholders question college on new contracts
Agreeing to meet with the Freeholders after Labor Day, Hudson County Community College will not put out bids on custodial contracts as planned.
O’Dea said he is concerned about a proposal by HCCC that would hire 47 full time and part time employees, but would not meet the county requirement for a minimum living wages.
“It looks like the college is planning to privatize its custodial operations,” he said. “Why don’t we have an inter-local agreement with the college to provide these services? Also, the bid that was put out by the college does not have a provision to meet our living wage requirements.”
Although the freeholders passed an ordinance three years ago requiring the county’s departments to provide this living wage provision, HCCC is not bound by this requirement.”
“The college will sit and talk with us about the matter,” O’Dea said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.