County considers buying shelter to house its large fleet of vehicles

UNION COUNTY — The county may have to find another place to house their vehicle fleet and print shop if the deal to buy the property they have been leasing since 1999 falls through.

The county has been leasing the Smith Cadillac property on West Grand Street since 1998 for $360,000 a year because of its proximity to other county buildings in Elizabeth. But when the lease was up the end of 2012 it became apparent that renewing it might be too costly for the county, and it might be time to exercise the “option to buy” clause. Since then the county has been renting the site on a month to month basis from the owner, Smith Realty Motors Realty, Inc., while negotiating to buy the site. However, the month to month lease increased the rent by $111,909.60 a year, which was an incentive for the county to move the purchase along if possible.

According to Communication Director Sebastian D’Elia, the county did approve a resolution recently allocating up to $4.3 million to purchase the Grand Street 600-foot by 200-foot parcel of land, but they are open to looking at other areas if and when any are presented.

“The county is not actively looking right now for another site because they are still negotiating with the owner of the former Smith Cadillac site, but if something did come up they would look into it,” D’Elia said late last week.

He also noted that the freeholders passed the ordinance for the $4.3 million in bonding so the money would be available when needed.

Earlier this year the county put out a Request for Proposals and actually zeroed in on one suitable site located in Roselle Park at the corner of North Avenue and Chestnut Street, but that deal failed to pan out. Finding another site has been difficult, D’Elia said, because the land has to be large enough to hold the county vehicle fleet, garage and print shop.

“That has proved difficult, especially since the present site is centrally located to where our main buildings are located,” the public information director said.

The county did have the Grand Street site appraised and while the value was set at $3 million, D’Elia said he did not know if the property value was lower or higher for the present market value of other similar sites in the area. He was also unaware if any would be suitable for the county’s needs.
D’Elia said any conjecture on what the freeholder board planned to do was premature at this point, but he did say the county had to have a place to house the fleet, and this left them with few alternatives at this point other than to negotiate to buy the site they are now using.
Prior to the county moving fleet operations to the Grand Street address, the print shop and garage were all in separate locations. The problem with finding the right location at this juncture is the size.

While there are parcels of land available for sale, so far none have suited what the county needs. Another problem with purchasing property is that when the county finalizes the deal, the site is removed from the tax rolls and the city no longer generates tax revenue from it.