What was once a police substation on Belgrove Drive will, within months, be officially transformed into a new Kearny Health Department community annex, bringing more, much-needed healthcare access to the southern end of town and East Newark.

While the property has been used for events like food distribution and more, it will become much more than that once the project is completed in about a year, according to the town.

Last week, Jeff Schlecht, senior project manager of the firm RSC Architects, Hackensack, was at Town Hall to explain the project.

“The annex will provide supplemental health services to the local community — testing, inoculations, food distribution and seminars, so it’s small, one-story facility to supplement everything else going on.”

Schlecht says the new facility will be in the same spot of the old police substation that was built in the late 1990s. The parking lot on the other side of the property will not be affected, though the annex will include four spots for employees and visitors.

The existing trailer will be removed to make way for a 1,500 square foot “square” building with a vestibule for reception, a meeting room big enough to accommodate up to 41 people, two consultation (exam) rooms, a restroom and a small office area with workstations for employees.

As part of the design, the sloped roof will include solar battery backup power — a Tesla power wall — that will keep the building functioning with the building’s essentials, such as refrigerators, computers, etc., if there is a power outage. The building, itself, will have partial solar power.

A digital sign board will be also be placed on the property.

The tent, used now mostly for food distribution, will remain in a similar spot and for the same purpose.

And even better news? The project is ready to go.

“We’re ready for bid,” Schlecht said. “We expect an early award for spring construction, about nine months’ duration for the contract for construction which puts us toward the end of the year (2024) for final construction. The estimated cost, we have it at $887,000 with some (Community Development Block Grant) funding that’s going to offset that (price).”

Town Administrator Stephen Marks took that one step further, noting 100% of the project will be paid for by federal CDBG funding and administered by Hudson County. The initial allocation of $700K was bumped, he said, to “well over $1 million,” to cover all costs for the annex.

Not a penny of taxpayer money will be used.

First Ward Councilman George Zapata, who represents the First Ward, where the annex will be located, seemed excited for the prospect of the coming project.

“I just want to say thank you for all the work you did in putting this together,” Zapata said. “It’s kinda crazy to think of how fast the year has flown when this project was first being discussed and when we first all met at the current substation to figure out a way to best utilize that space without infringing on parking that’s vital to that area … and touching on the renewable-energy option.

“I’m very happy to see that those solar panels are going to be there as well as the option for that backup generator.”

Zapata also thanked Health Director Annie McNair for her hard work leading to this day.

Meanwhile, First Ward Councilwoman Marytrine DeCastro wanted to ensure the equipment to be used for the project wouldn’t be left overnight and on weekends, thus taking away precious parking spaces.

“We think most of the work can be done without negatively impacting the parking.” Schlecht said, noting there could be some minimal disruption to parking at the beginning of the construction phase. The town’s consulting engineer Michael Neglia said the contractors will be required to put in writing the prohibition of  parking on the property by the workers.

Mayor Carol Jean Doyle was, like Zapata, appreciative of McNair’s efforts and thensome.

“I know many residents of the First Ward don’t drive,” she said. “This is a big boost to the First Ward. Good job, (Jeff.)”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.