With a 329-page document by Brinkerhoof Environmental Services providing an inconclusive report for the River Edge American Legion Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, the governing body decided to move forward with seeking demolition estimates this week.
The environmental study was initially intended to determine if there is an underground oil tank on site along with any use of lead paint or asbestos inside the building. Brinkerhoof's research and their $2400 report resulted in finding no historical data to prove the existence of the three environmental concerns. Additional testing could be performed to determine the status of the three environmental concerns, although at this time it is not likely.
"We're billed $2,400 and it seems very vague for a report to not notice if there is asbestos inside or an underground tank," Councilman Paul Cordts said. "It seems excessive on price and vague on description. It just seems like Brinkerhoof is not coming to the table with a full report."
According to Councilman Edward Mignone, while the report did not determine the exact existence of asbestos, lead paint or an oil tank, the borough should assume that at least all three items do exist on the side due to the age of the building.
"Under the guidelines they did what they were supposed to do," Mignone said. "Bassed on the age of the building there is a strong likelihood of asbestos and lead paint. They should have at least stated some potential locations, but they followed the guidelines."
The Dutch Colonial-style building is approximately between 80 to 90 years old but is plagued with flooding and mold issues along with not being ADA compliant. An estimate received by architect Peter Pulice put renovation costs running between $300,000 to $1.3 million.
Mignone subsequently recommended that borough engineer Robert Costa draw up demolition specifications for removing the American Legion and include the estimated costs for removing any lead paint and asbestos.
And while the entire council is supportive of removing the detoriating building, Councilman Thomas Papaleo urged fiscal responsibility and to wait a year before spending any funding to remove the Legion.
"I just don't see how we could justify to the taxpayers to tear it down and create a slab," Papaleo said. "I don't understand why we're trying to tear down a building during this budget year and I don't think it's prudent to spend right now. The building could wait another year."
But waiting the additional year also has its drawbacks as the town needs to continue running electricity to the Legion so that the sump pumps continue to work. The basement is prone to flooding and without the heat and electricity running, the mold and deteroiation could be sped up.
"We can't just let the building sit there," Cordts said. "We're at the point where we either renovate or take it down."
Funding for the study and demolition, approximately $50,000, had previously been set aside in the capital budget for 2012. The first $10,000 of the budgeted amount is already available following the $2,400 payment to Brinkerhoof. The remaining $40,000 is part of a bond ordinance that would need final approval before it could become available.
In the end, the council overruled Papaleo's request to wait 5-0 and will now wait for specifications and cost estimates on the demolition.