Noting the growing need for security upgrades and operational efficiencies, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners has taken another step toward constructing a new annex to the Ocean County Justice Complex on Hooper Avenue, here.
“Our overall goal is to create a building that will function properly,” said Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, who serves as liaison to state court functions in Ocean County. “We are building what we need. We are not building too much.”
The Board at its Jan. 17 meeting awarded a contract to the lowest qualified bidder, Ernest Bock & Sons in the amount of $78 million. Work on the project could begin in the spring and completion is estimated for 2026.
Ocean County received five bids on the project with the highest bidder totaling $97,857,000.
The annex design meets the county’s overall goals to construct a building that is functional, cost effective and right-sized. The new building will be four stories and 125,000 square feet.
The project design advantages include a single secure entrance and screening location and separated circulation for the public, judges and prisoners.
“This gives us the opportunity to solve one of our biggest problems and that is the movement of people in this facility,” Kelly said. “The new design gives us one single controlled location to move the public in and out of the building. This enhances security and safety for everyone using the facility.”
The public will access the building by using the overhead walkway across Hooper Avenue that is attached to the Ocean County Parking Garage. The walkway will be undergoing extensive renovations as part of the work.
In addition, the new building is designed to consolidate criminal courtrooms and probation while providing space for more efficient administration and court services.
The project includes eight new courtrooms including two large courtrooms and is expected to serve the needs of the County through 2035.
“Ocean County continues to grow in population,” Kelly said. “Ocean County government provides services and programs to meet that growth. This justice complex annex will help us meet the growth in our judicial system.”
The new building also allows for consolidation of court facilities into fewer buildings ultimately providing a reduction in building leases.
“We have had family courts, probation services, and even a criminal court scattered among buildings in downtown Toms River,” Kelly noted. “This is all resulting in extra cost to the county for rent and security.
“The consolidation is another example of how we will improve security and reduce expenses,” he said.
Deputy Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Gary Quinn extended his appreciation to Commissioner Kelly for shepherding the project to fruition.
“This is a very complex project to put together because it addresses many areas of the judicial system which is overseen by the state,” Quinn said. “Commissioner Kelly worked diligently to get us to this point.”
Ocean County Commissioner Frank Sadeghi abstained from voting on the contract noting he had been on the board only since Jan. 3 and continues to review the project while the other Commissioners have been working on it for a number of years.
The Board of Commissioners approved a $92 million funding ordinance in August 2023 for the project. The project architect is Clarke, Caton, Hintz of Trenton.
Before being able to move forward with seeking bids on the project, the plans needed to be approved by the Office of the State Comptroller.
“This project has been discussed and planned for quite some time. It will be a welcome upgrade to our court system,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Barbara Jo Crea. “I commend Commissioner Kelly and the professional staff for taking their time in planning the annex and paying close attention to the details that will help us provide a much needed and improved facility.”
Artist rendering – north east corner of the new justice complex annex.