By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
OCEANPORT – As 2017 drew to a close, Monmouth County was preparing to solicit bids from firms interested in building a modular, prefabricated adult emergency homeless shelter on a 3.1-acre site on the former Fort Monmouth from plans prepared by the Spiezle Architectural Group of Hamilton.
When potential bidders were contacted, however, officials discovered the timeline and costs would be impacted by a lack of availability of modular structures.
“Prefabricated trailers have been scooped up due to natural disasters like hurricanes and fires around the country,” said Monmouth County Administrator Teri O’Connor on April 2. “What was available two years ago isn’t now. We haven’t given up hope on it, but we’re now looking at other options.”
O’Connor said plans for the shelter have been expanded to include “stick built traditional construction,” adding the county is hopeful the original completion target for this fall can still be met.
Original plans called for two prefabricated modular structures connected by a bridge portion at the corner of Courier Avenue and Murphy Drive.
The site was conveyed to the county by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) in March for $1. The county’s original homeless shelter, located nearby on Stephenson Avenue, was destroyed in Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Since then, adults needing temporary shelter have been placed at the John L. Montgomery Care Center in Freehold, a former county facility that was sold to a private concern last year.
By statute and agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the county’s homeless shelter must be located in the Oceanport section of the fort. A suitable permanent site was identified last year and accepted by county, FMERA and Oceanport officials.
FMERA is obligated by contract to reimburse the county for approved costs up to $1.5 million for demolition of two small existing buildings on the site, and design and construction of the new 4,080-square-foot emergency homeless shelter. Those monies come from the FMERA Homeless Trust Fund, funded by a percentage of each fort parcel closing. At the authority’s March 27 meeting, members approved transferring up to $450,000, primarily for preparatory work at the site, which proved more involved than originally anticipated.
Costs “will substantially exceed the previously established $1.5 million budget based on their updated engineering and construction estimates” because of the revised quotes, according to the FMERA resolution authorizing the increase. These cost overruns prompted the county to request a proportion of funding from FMERA’s Homeless Trust Fund.
Additional roadwork was required, O’Connor said, as FMERA opposed plans for including a side street the county planned to use as part of the project. Engineering and utility relocation work has been performed but additional work was required to improve ingress and egress. Other additional costs were incurred demolishing the two structures, which contained more asbestos than originally anticipated, O’Connor added. The site already includes a paved parking area.
The adults-only facility will have one side for men and the other for women, with an area in between with a kitchen, laundry, a dining area and a common room, with space for security, counseling, clothing, a computer nook and staff. The Spiezle Architectural Group renderings released by the county last December are still valid, O’Connor said.
The county houses a fluctuating number of about 18 up to 30 homeless adults who are required to work or look for work and permanent housing during daylight hours. Occupants are allowed to remain at the emergency shelter for a maximum of 30 days.
“There are strict criteria participants must follow,” said Monmouth County Freeholder deputy director Lillian Burry, the county’s FMERA representative. “It’s an interim place to be sheltered until they can transition into new circumstances. This is something we’ve done for years for those who are in a temporary state of homelessness.”
This article was first published in the Apr. 5-12, 2018 print edition of the Two River Times.
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