American Legion Receives Grace Period as Demolition Funding Postponed
The River Edge American Legion building's future will rise again in October when the demolition funding goes for a final vote
With only four Council members present on Monday night, the American Legion building earned a two-week grace period before the question of demolition funding will rise again. The governing body was initially expected to approve a resolution authorizing the alottment of $45,000 towards the demolition but agreed to table it until the full council was present as both Council President Paul Corts and Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy were absent.
The borough had decided in late August along party lines to move forward with the removal of the Dutch-Colonial building that is plagued with flooding and mold issues. Prior to that, River Edge received a 329-page document by Brinkerhoof Environmental Services providing an inconclusive report for the River Edge American Legion Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, which could not prove the existence of an underground oil tank on site along with any use of lead paint or asbestos inside the building.
"Right now there are a lot more things to be spending money on, improving street ramps, senior citizens," 7th Avenue resident Cindy Bequeaith said. "The electric and sump pumps can not be that much money to spend every month. Use that money more wisely and save it for a time when the town is more fiscally even."
The Dutch Colonial-style building is approximately between 80 to 90 years old but has suffered from flooding and mold issues in the basement after the electricity to the building had been turned off. Considered not ADA compliant, architect Peter Pulice provide an estimate that put renovation costs running between $300,000 to $1.3 million.
Former American Legion Post Commander retired Army Sgt. Major Raymond Stitz stated that the building, which was sold 'as is' for $425,000 to the borough, was in working condition at the time of purchase. The damage from flooding came following the transfer of ownership.
"That was a functioning bar up until the time the title changed," Stitz said. "It was a functioning building, but like most homed it had two working sump pumps. The black mold is not from the American Legion, it was caused by improper decision making by whomever was sitting up there to turn off the power. You paid $425,000 for the building and now you want to knock it down for another $40,000. Sometimes it's better to renovate than knock it down; you don't need to knock it down right now."
While the basement has suffered from water damage and mold, the first and second floors have faired somewhat better with some insullation falling down and chipped paint in the bathroom due to moisture damage.
"It was wrong to buy the building," resident LeAnn Plutnicki said. "It's wrong to tear it down, but two wrongs don't make a right."
Funding for the demolition had previously been set aside in the capital budget for 2012 and the resolution will appear before the Council during the Oct. 1 meeting.