Sparta officials await relocation

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:45

    SPARTA-His sport coat rested off to the side in his office. On this day, in the first week of January, Henry Underhill, the Sparta Township manager, wouldn't need it. The building was warm, the boiler was functioning; business would proceed without a hitch in the Sparta Municipal Building. So, Underhill was content n for the time being at least -- with keeping the heat inside rather than turning it up outside on crews who are working toward construction of a new $5.2 million municipal building that has fallen three months behind schedule. "We turn up the heat on them all the time," said Underhill. "There's not much I can do except to remind them that's there are late fees if they don't get done on time n and we've done that." Inside the current municipal building, Underhill is quick to point out, that comfortable working conditions have not always been the norm "It's either feast or famine," said Underhill. "The boiler is one of the key reasons we're getting a new building. It's been on the frits. Last week, it was 20 degrees in here. This week it's 80." That is why he and other Sparta employees as well as township residents are patiently awaiting completion, which was planned for November 2004, of the new building located directly behind the existing facility, now almost 100-years-old. "They're slow," said Underhill, who now expects to move into the new building by early June. "We should be sitting in there and not over here. What I planned on all year has not yet come to be. But, it's not unusual for municipal projects, especially if they are a year- to 15-months long." The township, Underhill said, has inspected the construction and the work is up to standards. He said he is not concerned, yet. "If it means we have to stay in this building an extra six months, it's not the worst case," said Underhill. "We are incurring some expenses because we have to keep the architect on board, but if they don't get done on time, there are late fees that will offset some of our expenses." Officials with Horizon Contracting of Union County, which is overseeing construction, said weather and its effects on delivering materials was a major factor for falling behind schedule. "To start a project up in this area of the state and go against the winter and expect it to go smoothly is not going to happen," said Paul Gosdick, project manager for Horizon. "The dates are based on building the building on paper, not building it in the real world." In October and November, the construction site was picketing by union tradesmen over Horizon's use of non-union members on the project. Both Underhill and Gosdick dismissed the possibility that picketers may have delayed construction. In the meantime, Sparta employees and residents using the municipal building will make due with the leaky roof when it rains, termites, and overcrowding. Underhill said by the time the new building is completed, everything will have been worth the wait. The new 35,000 square-foot municipal building, he said, will be twice its original size, featuring a new security system; the police department will have state-of-the-art facilities; the courtroom an expanded capacity to seat 100; and visitors access to "one-stop shopping" of municipal services.