With the doors and windows shuttered, the American Legion building in River Edge is currently uninhabitable between electrical and flooding issues along with several spots of black mold.
What could have and may still become a Senior Center, the building has a long road ahead before anyone could step inside. The building was purchased by the borough in 2009 "as is" from the American Legion with the goal of using Community Development Block Grant funding to rehabilitate, renovate and repair while bringing the structure up to current ADA standards.
But before any funds could be received, the County is seeking a deed restriction stating that the building once opened would only by used by the borough's senior citizens. At the same time, the municipality has been struggling during its 2011 budget preparation to come in under the new 2% tax levy cap and facing the possibility of not being able to afford work needed on the building.
"Last year, an architect came in with an estimate that the initial project could run about $369,000," CDBG representative for River Edge Tom Smith said. "The main thing is the condition downstairs. To pull out the mold, contaminates and paneling is about $15,000 as of last October."
But James Arakelian, who also represents the borough for CDBG funding advised that instead of pursuing the current application for a CDBG funding and supplying the deed for the first grant, instead should to Bergen County Open Space to potential cover the costs associated with the building.
"I think it is a waste of town funds for this project and really not cost effective," Arakelian said. "We have not yet taken the grant from last year toward the purchase and we won't unless we hand over a deed with restrictions. I think going forward with grants from Bergen County Open Space Trust might be a better direction to go."
According to DPW Superintendent John Lynch, among the needed repairs are a roof replacement, electrical, plumbing and heating work and remediation of the mold issues.
Because CDBG representatives Smith and Arakelian will next meet with the County on March 24, the Council will make a decision regarding the block grants during its March 21 regular meeting.