Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Public safety projects remain priorities under a six-year capital program that has been introduced by the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The 2010 capital program totals $28.2 million and continues to fund work on the county’s new emergency communications center, with $2 million set aside for the design of the new facility, and $1.1 million allotted to acquire a Computer Aided Dispatch System to meet the anticipated growth and associated workload of providing emergency dispatch services for first responders across the county.

The 2011 capital program contains $24 million for construction of the new communications center, which will provide for the future growth of the county’s Emergency Call Center and the Emergency Operations Center and will allow for additional space for the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Unit. Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom, who chairs the freeholder budget committee, said it is important for the county to move ahead with the communication center.

“The freeholders made a commitment several years ago to expand our communication system so it had the capacity to cover any town that wanted to consolidate its dispatch service with the county,” Nordstrom said. “It is important that we keep that commitment.”

The new facility will also afford a more secure location for the county’s computer server, which is the hub of the county government’s information system.

The 2010 capital program also contains $500,000 to build a new courtroom in the Morris County Courthouse in space occupied by the soon-to-be-closed law library, and $400,000 for renovations to the Schuyler Building in Morristown to create four multipurpose and two computer classrooms for the County College of Morris. This will enable CCM to give up rental space that is now costing the college $400,000 per year.

Nordstrom said the freeholders are using the historic preservation concept of adaptive reuse, whereby solutions are developed that give historic but obsolete buildings a new future.

“Old buildings and spaces often outlive their original purpose,” Nordstrom said. “We’re taking space in the courthouse and in the Schuyler Building that has outlived its original purpose, and we’re giving it new life.”

The bulk of the 2010 capital program contains funds for public works projects, with $13.7 million allocated for the design and construction work on county roads and bridges, and $1.7 million earmarked to replace an aging 24 inch water transmission main along approximately 10,000 feet of Pleasant Hill Road in Chester and Randolph townships.

“Our annual capital budget is the freeholders’ commitment to the insfrastruture of Morris County,” said Freeholder Director Gene Feyl. “It provides the funds to upgrade all of our facilities, while at the same time providing for the services that ensure the health and safety of Morris County residents.”

Other projects in the 2010 capital program include:
> $2.35 million for renovations to some academic buildings at the County College of Morris.
> $700,000 for the design of the final phase of the Central Avenue Complex at Central Park of Morris County in Parsippany.
> $700,000 for the final design of the Central Park recreational fields on the north side of Central Avenue.
> $700,000 worth of improvements to Mennen Arena that include roof replacement and the replacement of refrigerant piping insulation to decrease energy usage.
> $500,000 to complete fiber optic lines to interconnect the county government facilities in Morristown with those in the West Hanover Avenue complex.
> $216,000 to renovate patient areas and hallways at the Morris View Healthcare Center to ensure the building remains in excellent condition for the facilities residents, clients and staff.

Freeholder Jack J. Schrier, a member of the freeholder Facilities Review Committee, invoked an old adage in calling the capital program one of fiscal restraint and prudence.

“Not to go forward is to fall behind, and there is no such luxury as standing still,” Schrier said. “This new capital program reflects the economic realities of our time while also looking to the future and addressing numerous quality of life programs ranging from public safety and infrastructure improvements to recreation.”