The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners has not made a decision on the Dennis Library in Newton but other needs may take priority, board members said at their meeting Sept. 13.
In reply to a question from Helen Heckman of Newton, Commissioner Bill Hayden said, “I don’t think we’re in a position to take the library only in that we have 64 buildings in our inventory and 63 need roofs.”
If the county were to do all the maintenance needed on county buildings, it would cost $44 million, he added.
The Prosecutor’s Office is going to need to work to remove a mold problem, and the cost is estimated at $8 million, he noted.
Wendy Whipple of Newton pointed out that the New Jersey State Library has approved a $3.5 million grant for the Dennis Library renovations, which would include making the historic building handicapped-accessible. The Newton Library Association has offered the building to the county for free because it no longer is able to maintain it.
Chris Carney, director of the commissioners board, said the needed renovations there now are estimated to cost $10 million to $11 million. “We are on the hook for anything over $3.5 million ... and we can’t afford that right now. We have other priorities.”
Whipple said, “There is nothing that says that building is going to be around two, three, four years from now. Once that happens, then the county is in a position how are they going to provide library services to 27 percent of the people of this county.”
Hayden suggested that the county could provide transportation from the Dennis Library to other county libraries that are handicapped-accessible.
Interest in the jail
Carney said some prospective buyers are interested in the county jail, which is about 45 years old and needs work to meet requirements of current building laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act..
”The time has come to get rid of the jail and save the taxpayers money,” he said.
The jail property is being surveyed, then it will be appraised.
Sussex County has a long-term contract with Morris County to house its adult inmates there.
In answer to a resident’s question, Carney estimated that repairing the jail would cost more than $14 million.
County Administrator Ron Tappan pointed out that the jail could be leased rather than sold. “It may not be a lump sum windfall.”
Carney also reported that eight more county roads will be resurfaced. The Department of Public Works also paved the parking lot at the DPW garage in Vernon; it had not been paved since 1978.
Hayden said the Regional Planning Board has received a $540,000 grant to buy a new harvester and backhoe.
Commissioner Dawn Fantasia reported Sussex County has a low level of COVID-19 cases, with seven or eight cases a day in August. Nine people were hospitalized in August and 11 in July.
As of mid-September, there was one active outbreak of COVID-19 in a group home and two in long-term-care facilities in Sussex County, she said.
The county has had a “serious spike” in West Nile virus being found in pools of water tested in the county, Fantasia said. Eleven pools of 554 submitted for testing were positive for West Nile virus and one for Jamestown Canyon virus.
County workers have sprayed 40 times by truck and ATV and once by air, covering 1,500 acres.
Sussex County has received a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide traps for spotted lanternflies to commercial farms. If there are additional traps, they will go to towns and residents.
The commissioners approved an ordinance amending regulations on road openings and access permits to allow installation of Automated License Plate Readers in the county rights-of-way.
• Authorized the purchase of hardware and software upgrades from Software House International for the Department of Health and Human Services for $491,111.
• Awarded contracts for purchase from Pellegrino Chevrolet of Westville of two 2024 express cargo vans for $84,390 and two 2024 crew cabs for $93,998. The purchases will be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
• Authorized masonry work by Tony’s Concrete Construction Co. of Newark at the Stillwater Road Garage for $120,940, at the Sussex County Fairgrounds for $65,225 and at the Hopatcong Road Garage for $50,189.
The board appointed Anthony Lentini as a farm representative of the county Agriculture Development Board. He replaces Joan Broadhecker, who resigned.
The commissioners also reappointed Maryjean Ellis to a new three-year term on the county Mental Health Board.