HomeMedford NewsAfter discourse on Facebook, Medford Council holds meeting to discuss new building...

After discourse on Facebook, Medford Council holds meeting to discuss new building plan

The Council held a special presentation on Aug. 20 to clarify and answer questions that residents had about the new Pinelands Library and municipal building.

Several residents attended a council meeting on Aug. 20 to discuss a special presentation on the new library and municipal construction plan that sparked recent debates on local Facebook groups.

During the latest township council meeting, detailed information on the new municipal and Pinelands Library building was discussed at length, leaving residents with a clearer idea of what the new project will entail. 

The council held a special presentation during a meeting on Aug. 20 to clarify and answer questions residents had about the new library and municipal construction scheduled to be built early next year. 

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The decision to add a presentation was made in response to news coverage and lengthy public discourse on local Facebook pages about the new building. 

The town released a general architect-type model of the first- and second-floor layout, along with a short animated video of the exterior on its website after Brooks Garrison, the architect of the project, presented a rendering of the building at a council meeting on Aug. 7. 

However, even though detailed information such as funding and location specifications had been talked about in past council meetings, it had not been released to the public in a digestible format, resulting in false facts and assumptions about the plan when multiple public discussions reached Facebook, officials said.  

“There was a lot of things out in the public that were just clearly wrong,” said Mayor Charles Watson. “We just saw a lot of misinformation out there and want to just put as much of the facts out there as we could.” 

Watson said he received several e-mails by residents who falsely believed, because of Facebook posts, the Jonathan Haines House, a historic landmark in town, will be torn down to make room for the new construction, which is untrue, according to Watson.

“We have no intention on tearing the building down,” said Watson.  

The township purchased the site in early 2018 after looking at other available locations in town, such as the Kirby Bros feed store, but ultimately decided on the site due to lower costs. The new building will be located behind and to the right of the historic house. 

Most of the residents at the recent meeting were in favor of the new building, especially for its new library. However, many of the issues that were discussed by them during public comment were related to traffic and parking. 

Watson assured them there will be “adequate parking” that will “meet or exceed” the township standards. 

Also, in response to Facebook comments, he stated the town will not be raising taxes to pay for the building. The building will be paid for by bond ordinances and grant funding. 

During the 2018 budget process, the council approved $6 million for the project, which is a majority of the funds needed, according to the town. An additional $500,000 was approved a year later, during the 2019 budget process. 

The township, with the assistance of the Burlington County Library System, stated it will be applying for the new NJ Library Construction Bond Act to offset costs for the library portion of the building. While grants aren’t anticipated to be accepted until 2020, it has the potential to fund up to 50 percent of the project’s cost, according to the Act.   

The next council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Public Safety Building.


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