Bernards Town Hall Plans for Generator
Engineer hired to arrange for generator to keep municipal offices up and running and provide warm spot during power outages.
When Superstorm Sandy pulled the plug on the municipal building last October, and left many municipal operations scattered in various locations, township officials resolved to install a generator powerful enough to keep town hall up and running.
The cold weather that set in after several days of last fall's prolonged power outage also encouraged discussions of turning the large courtroom into a warming center if necessary.
But placing a generator in a municipal facility housed in a gracious old home with original sections dating back to 1904 and different circuit systems — which also requires state Department of Environmental Protection approval for installation — isn't so easy, officials discovered.
As a result, on Tuesday night the Township Committee awarded a contract of up to $18,400 to professional engineer Nancy C. Wohlleb of the firm Hatch Mott MacDonald for an engineering design for a standby municipal generator powerful enough so Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said it could power the entire building. He mentioned keeping the township's information technology system running as a major concern.
McArthur said the township staff had not had much luck coming up with a plan for a generator, and had received a proposal for a generator that would need to be converted from diesel to natural gas, and would cost in excess of $400,000. Getting the state DEP to issue a permit for such a plan would be "problematic," McArthur added.
Now, the township expects to focus on acquiring a diesel generator that would cost less than the other proposal — although McArthur added he couldn't yet say how much less.
In a separate plan, township officials have discussed revamping the courtroom and main meeting room so it could function as a main meeting place during a power outage and might also provide a place for residents to warm up.
"We are hoping to start renovating this room Sept. 1," McArthur said. He added he isn't sure yet how much that renovation would cost.
A out-of-season snowstorm and the arrival of Sandy both fell on Oct. 29 for the past two years. McArthur told the Township Committee the generator might be in by Oct. 28 — but then added he would like to have it in by the end of November.
Officials said they would pass along a smaller functioning generator to the Board of Health building.
The health department has medicines that require refrigeration, Gaziano noted.
McArthur told the Township Committee that the municipality could be eligible for grant money from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to help pay for the generator, but there is competition for such funding.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the Liberty Corner Fire Co. requested $15,000 in operating funds that would be used toward the cost of a generator at fire headquarters. The fire company had not requested the funding in the past, even though it is available to other volunteer emergency organizations, officials said.
"I do think it's important for them to have a generator," Gaziano said. That building also could be used as a warming center during a power outage, she said.