Monday, August 20, 2007

Pressgrrrl vs. Bloglady

As Pressgrrrl, I spent many hours putting together a story on the NJQSAC report and other district news for the Courier. Read all about it tomorrow. Night owls can get it online by about 1 a.m.

As Bloglady I found a couple of items of interest at the City Council meeting. One will have to wait a day or so to ripen. The other is that the council intends to approve Solid Rock Construction as the contractor to fit out the 17,000-square-foot basement of Tepper’s at a cost of $459,000. That is the amount of a grant arranged by Sen. Frank Lautenberg when the space was under consideration several years ago as a senior center. The grant is due to expire soon, thus the need to commit it.

As it happened, the seniors did not want to be put in the Tepper’s basement. (Insert your own mushroom joke here.) They held out for, and got, their very own new senior center promised at 400 East Front Street, as part of the Dornoch Plainfield project with three floors of condos overhead.

The former Tepper’s department store now has three layers: 75 apartments on top, commercial at ground floor and the city-owned basement. The city took possession of the basement some time ago, but has never figured out another use for it. Possibilities have included a downtown camera surveillance center, storage, new City Council chambers or a communications center.

City Administrator Marc Dashield said Monday the contractor now will build “pretty much a vanilla box” in the basement. The administration may come back with other plans later.

The city will be liable for maintenance of the space and also for condo fees, Dashield said.

Plaintalker recently attempted to find out what the condo fees for the city are, but the information was never forthcoming. Time for another OPRA request. The city will also be responsible for around 13 percent of the condo fees for the Dornoch building, which of course won’t be known until the building is up and running.

The idea of a municipality being a condo association member just seemed weird, given the wacky stories about condo association rules. What if the city wants to put up a flag? Will there be fines and sanctions? Some suburban associations come close to fascism in their regulations. See this take on condo rules.

Anyway, the plan for the $459,000 fix-up may cover installation of air conditioning and walls, but will result in “no functional space at this time,” Dashield said.

Maybe the city is just trying to make the best of flawed plans for past years, but it’s too bad the $456,000 is not being expended on more specific intentions for the space.

--Bernice Paglia


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