Toms River officials are looking to build a warehouse for storing some public records, in the wake of a storage crisis.
An item on the consent agenda at last night's Township Council meeting authorized the township’s Purchasing Division to advertise and receive bids for the construction of the building.
Resident Dennis Galante asked about the projected cost, size or location for the building.
Township Administrator Paul Shives that the planned location for the facility is on North Bay Avenue, across from the Public Works Facility on nearby Church Road.
Galante asked if many of the township’s records had been transferred to microfilm several years ago. Township Clerk Mark Mutter said that was not the case and that only the township's building department had records transferred to microfilm.
“There are 11 separate rooms of records in town hall, from the basement, to the first floor, to the second floor, the third floor and in the attic, above the mayor and administrator’s offices,” Mutter said.
Mutter explained that the inventory of records in town hall included over 4,500 banker boxes worth of materials.
“We are in a records crisis in this building," he said. "One of the first things I did as clerk was deal with fire code violations."
Mutter said that several other rooms and office spaces in town hall are currently used to house records, but added that they weren’t designed for that purpose.
“The fact that we have records without any kind of central organization is very poor records management,” said Mutter. “It’s something that I inherited as the clerk almost 10 years ago.”
Mutter emphasized that the problem would grow in the future if the town did not take steps towards a solution in the present.
Galante asked if any kind of study had been done on transferring other records to microfilm. Mutter said that that such an operation would cost “millions of dollars” and take “decades” to complete.
Shives also said that the state determines the accepted medium for municipal records storage, and New Jersey currently “doesn’t recognize” digital storage of records.
Township Engineer Robert Chankalian pointed to photos taken at town hall just last week, which showed “overflowing” boxes of records stacked in various rooms. The engineer also outlined the design of the proposed records storage building.
“This will be a metal storage building located across from public works,” said Chankalian. “Initially, it will be about a 4,000 square foot-building. Low cost, but it will have a records storage center.”
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. "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,” said Chankalian.
Mutter said that 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.
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, he said.
The clerk added that Toms River’s proposal for the facility had been reviewed by state officials in Trenton, and had met with their approval.