Construction of a dedicated records storage facility in Toms River is anticipated to begin next month, now that the Township Council voted to approve a $1.2 million contract for the project.
The 4,000 square foot facility is planned for a township-owned lot across from Toms River’s Department of Public Works on Church Road and will solve what has been called a document storage “crisis.”
With documents stored in 18 different locations throughout the township, Clerk Mark Mutter said that current records management is “very poor.”
“We are in a records crisis in this building," Mutter said when the storage facility project was first publicly presented last September. “The fact that we have records without any kind of central organization is very poor records management.”
Work on the facility, which will be built by Gavan General Contracting of Lakewood for $1,190,740, is anticipated to begin in September and, weather permitting, could be completed by next spring, according to Business Administrator Paul Shives.
The facility will not be manned by staff; rather, it will be used only when records are requested, council President George Wittmann said.
“They bring the boxes and store them there, then retrieve them. So it’s not like someone is stationed there permanently,” he said.
Records are required by the state to be in paper form, which is why digitization—an endeavor officials said could cost millions of dollars and take “decades” to complete—isn’t an option right now.
Though the design still has to be completed, Assistant Township Engineer Wendy A. Birkhead said that she is “sure” it will be built with cost-saving measures in place.
“But, we don’t have any specifics yet,” she said.
All council members except for John Sevastakis voted in favor of awarding the contract to Gavan. Sevastakis said in an email after the meeting that his concern with the contractor stems from its construction of Shelter Cove restrooms, a project that took “forever” to complete.
Prior to the council vote, Shives said that the township’s purchasing agent reviewed and certified the bid, and found no reason to disqualify it.
At the unveiling of the plan last year, Township Engineer Robert Chankalian said the building will have as little ultraviolet light as possible and be temperature-controlled, in the interest of proper records preservation.
“Basically, it will be similar to a warehouse; it’s a very unique system," he said at the time. "There are shelves lined up and they’re on a track system. There’s one aisle, you turn a wheel, and that moves the shelf. You only use one aisle for space, so basically, it’s a very efficient way to stack and rack the records.”
The engineer said that the inside of the building will be unfinished except for insulation, and will contain three rooms in the front of the building: a small vestibule, a loading area, and a shredding room.
“That’s basically it. It’s a very bare-bones building with climate control,” Chankalian said.
Toms River consulted Stafford Township, Brick Township and the administration of Middlesex County, who all operate their own records storage facilities, on the design of the proposed complex, officials have said.
Vital records and statistics such as those listing marriages, births, and deaths spanning back to the founding days of Toms River will not be housed at this building, but will remain in Town Hall, Mutter has said.