Wednesday, February 21, 2024


County Bond to Fund Airport Services Complex

Architect’s rendering of the east side of the proposed multipurpose building

By Al Campbell

CREST HAVEN – A $24-million bond ordinance was introduced June 8 by the Board of County Commissioners to fund several capital projects, one for half that amount for a government services building at the county airport.
A hearing and second reading of the proposal is scheduled for June 22, at 4:30 p.m., when the board will hold its second meeting of the month at the William E. Sturm Jr. Administration Building, 4 Moore Rd., Court House.
Among the items the bond will finance: 
$12.7 million for the construction of a government services complex.
$4.2 million for improvements to the County Commons, formerly the Rio Mall.
$6 million towards the county’s municipal redevelopment initiative to foster economic development and redevelopment.
As spelled out in the document, the bulk of the funding is for a government services building that will house several county departments in Erma. 
Among the departments: Fare-Free bus lot, Fare-Free offices and garages, Road Department office, County Road Department, Lower Township Public Safety Building, Election Board maintenance, and county gas station.
Work will include site preparation, demolition, construction or reconstruction, environmental remediation, testing, landscaping, sidewalks, and parking.
The ordinance calls for a down payment of $1.1 million for the projects, with $22.9 million issued as bonds backed by the county. The “useful life” of the $12.7-million portion of the bond is projected at 30 years.
At the Airport
By resolution, the board agreed with Cape May Brewing Co. LLC and the Atlantic County Improvement Authority (ACIA) to build a 25,000 square-foot production facility adjacent to the brewer’s headquarters at the airport.
The firm started in July 2011, with three people at the airport. The brewer “has become one of the most successful businesses in the county and a leader in the New Jersey craft beer revolution,” according to the resolution. 
The firm employs 65 full-time and 10 seasonal employees and “continues to steadily add more,” the resolution added. 
In addition to its 15,000 square-foot headquarters, it has 22,500 square feet at the airport and 7,000 square feet of outside space, which could expand to 60,000 square feet pending approvals. 
The firm also has 27,500 square feet in other locations outside the county. 
As a public-private partnership, the county will finance the construction of the core and shell building and retain ownership. 
The ACIA will build the structure and enter a long-term lease with the county. The brewer will sub-lease the building from the ACIA.
Funding will be supplied from a 2017 bond ordinance.
Cellular Tracking Technologies LLC, a tenant in the county’s Tech Village at the airport, wants to lease additional space. The firm began at the site in 2019. 
According to the resolution, “Operations at the premises have been so successful that (the firm) is already at its anticipated phased occupancy plan for Unit 1 and wished to expand its operations by subleasing Unit 2 and 3.
Bids will be sought by the ACIA to demolish several structures and build others at the airport in the “Government Services District.” The county is eligible for $1.2 million in a Federal Transit Authority grant to offset the costs of building new government services buildings.
Pandemic’s Impact
As a result of the Covid pandemic and its economic impact on the local economy, the board approved a lease agreement amendment with Stone Harbor Theater, a tenant in the County Commons in Rio Grande. 
Theaters were among the businesses affected by closure orders when a national health emergency was declared.
The resolution noted the local economy was “impacted and it has caused great hardship and uncertainty to pending projects and the business community throughout” the county.
Appointments Made
Barry Keefe, of Ocean View, Dave Brusemeyer, of Marmora, and Robert Johnson, of Court House, were reappointed to Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Board (MHADA) for three years, expiring June 30, 2024. 
Appointed to the board, also with terms ending that same day, were Jennifer Wolfson, of Court House, and Frank Garcia, of Fishing Creek. 
Board members serve as unpaid volunteers.
Toll Bridge Talks 
In April, representatives of United Bridge Partners (UBP) informed the board of the possibility of a public-private partnership to revamp four of five toll bridges operated by the county Bridge Commission. The problem was there were no members of the Bridge Commission in attendance.
At the June 8 meeting, several bridge commissioners attended and heard the proposal made by Lee Whitney and Ryan Dolan of UBP.
The advantage of their firm would be immediate access to funding and willingness to undertake design and construction of the bridges, as well as long-term operation.
The estimated cost was between $400 million and $700 million. Those figures would require a sizable county contribution or toll increases to repay the debt. 
Further discussion between the bridge commissioners and county commissioners is needed, said county Board Director Gerald Thornton. 
County Counsel Jeffrey Lindsay cited state law governing such an undertaking. He said it would require proposals after a public request is made, so that any interested party could present its cost to provide the service.
$1.06 million for general capital improvements.

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