By WILLIAM CLARK
The Ocean Township Council has approved the development plans that would raze and replace the Oakhurst Fire Department building on Deal Road.
The Hillel Yeshiva, which is adjacent to the firehouse, will pay to move the firehouse as it expands its current facility.
The plan, approved in September 2021 by the township’s Board of Adjustment, calls for two new buildings and three tennis courts for the Yeshiva. The agreement with the township calls for the removal of the current firehouse with a new one built nearby.
“Hillel is going to build the firehouse,” Mayor John Napolitani said. “There will be no cost to the taxpayer.”
Former President of the Board of Fire Commissioners Scott Nelson said the deal is a win-win for both the school and township.
The Yeshiva “approached us about maybe doing a land swap so that they could build a high school where the present firehouse is,” Nelson said.
Nelson said that once the permits are finalized and the costs are calculated the school will build a new firehouse on the lot directly next to the current facility. The new building will be state of the art and up to the specifications of the township. Once the new building is complete and the Oakhurst Fire Department occupies it, the former building will be demolished.
Township Fire Administrator for District 1 Craig Flannigan said this partnership will help both the fire department and Emergency Medical Services.
“Hillel has designed a firehouse that meets our current and future needs, including, but not limited to the space needed to house the District’s 24-hour EMS employees, thus allowing the District to transition its full-time EMS operations to a more suitable one,” he said.
Nelson said the deal is exciting for all involved.
“It was an 18 to 24 month process to go through negotiations and come up with a value that was equal in the land swap,” he said. “A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into it.”
The council also introduced an $1.5 million bond ordinance to renovate the building next to the William F. Larkin Golf Course in the Wanamassa section.
“Right now we are going to go out to bid,” Napolitani said. “There will be three to four golf simulators in the building that’s adjacent to the golf course. The way the current plan is set up there will be a space for a lounge. We’re going to do improvements in the basement of the building for storage and whatever other township uses.”
The key function of the building will be for recreation programs, he said.
Napolitani said the building used to be owned by a company and the township purchased the site with funds from another development project. Now, the township hopes to use the building for recreation.
“We’re always looking to add space for people to have events,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that this is a good use for the township. Keeping any additional buildings we have for recreation is paramount to the success of Ocean.”
No timeline has been established as the township determines the necessary supplies, materials and costs.