Golden shovels hit the dirt March 9 as construction commenced on a new $8 million building that will house Medford Township offices and the Pinelands Branch Library by next March.
“To finally get to the point where we’re moving dirt and footings (went in) in on March 10, it’s really exciting,” Mayor Chuck Watson said of the 51 Union St. location. “It’s another milestone.”
Among the shovel holders were the site’s architects, engineers and construction company, along with township council, other officials and public safety chiefs.
Project Executive Rob Notley said the building’s architecture will reflect the look of historic Haines House. Watson added no solar panels will be atop the building’s due to costs associated with the installation and problems that could ensue.
Brooks Garrison, site architect, said the library will be on the first floor and municipal offices on the second.
“Only one public exterior door and the three remaining are card-access protected,” Garrison explained. “Once you go into the main lobby area during normal hours or after hours, it would be card access for the second floor and the library will be locked.”
He noted the library will have an expanded children’s section, small group rooms with multimedia capacities, a computer lab and an expanded parking lot.
Watson added that municipal offices are being moved mainly because of a lack of accessibility to offices and bathrooms at the current location, at 17 N. Main St.
No plans have been made on the use of the Haines House, which will share the 51 Union St. address with the new building.
Garrison mentioned township offices are being expanded with a larger, high-density file room and offices for each department, as appropriated. A section of the floor will remain unfinished for the township to expand, if needed.
The new building will back up to the property lines of nearby homes and St. Mary of the Lake School’s campus, but landscaping will be added to create a natural buffer. Watson added a retention basin is in the back corner of the site as well.
The building has been funded through the township’s past budgets, and Watson hopes to secure more funding from the state and county. He cautioned against asking towns who pay into the Burlington County Library System to pay more for the library.
“We’re hoping that the grant from the state and the library would help us avoid needing to go there,” he said. “All of the surrounding towns are more than welcome to come use the library as we get the funds from the bigger entities.”
Project planning and funding has been a nearly seven-year process that will end when the dirt settles and construction workers create the building’s foundation.
“It’s been a long process, but seeing our design, it’s going to be worth all of the effort it takes to put it in on something that’s the right property and building for many years to come,” Watson said.