2006-09-13 / Front Page

Edison Tower to receive $1.8 million for repairs

JAY BODAS
The Edison Memorial Tower is closed to the public until needed restoration work can be completed.JAY BODAS The Edison Memorial Tower is closed to the public until needed restoration work can be completed. Officials estimate it will take between $3M to $4M for renovations

BY JAY BODAS

Staff Writer

The Edison Memorial Tower's much-needed renovations got a boost from the state recently.Gov. Corzine has authorized that we spend $1.8 million here to help with the restoration," said state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson. "It is wonderful news, and I am happy to be able to bring it. Here today we see people from various interests, people from the economic development end, the engineers, people interested in the inventor and in history, and we have people interested in open space. Here we have a place that brings all of those interests together."

Jackson made the announcement Saturday afternoon at an outdoor dedication ceremony near the tower in which the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) honored the tower as a milestone in electrical engineering.

The IEEE established the Electrical Engineering Milestones program in 1983 to honor significant achievements in the history of electrical engineering, according to the organization's Web site. Today there are only 70 such milestones around the world.

The 131-foot-tall art deco tower, built in 1937 on the site of Thomas Edison's late 19th-century industrial research complex, currently has a fence circling the structure and is off limits to the public.

Over the years, the tower has suffered water damage, said Nancy Zerbe, chairwoman of the Edison Memorial Tower Corp., a nonprofit organization made up of local residents who oversee and manage the tower.

"A 1994 study concluded that the tower was structurally sound, but that the concrete on the outside was being damaged by water coming in through the top, and the cycles of freezing and thawing of the water has damaged the concrete as well," she said after the ceremony.

The total renovation cost for the tower was estimated at somewhere between $3 to 4 million, according to a study done by Michael Henry of Bridgetons Watson and Henry Associates.

"The 1994 study, a conditions assessment, estimated the cost for renovations at $1.5 to 1.6 million," she said. "But now, with 12 years having gone by since the study, taking into account the additional damage done during that time as well as the effects of inflation, we are thinking it will cost $3 to 4 million to repair."

The top of the Edison tower has openings that are part of the monument, but those same openings have allowed rainwater to enter, causing steel to rust, said Township Councilman Charles Tomaro.

Zerbe said she was "thrilled" to receive the $1.8 million in state funds, an amount that adds to some $500,000 the state gave last year.

"The $500,000 was a special appropriation from the state from the last fiscal year," Zerbe said. "We had also received another $50,000 from a state grant, but that money has already been designated for one part of the renovation project. We are now looking to hire an engineer to do preliminary work on the tower and will be going through the proposal process."

Henry is one of the experts they are currently speaking to regarding the renovation work, Zerbe said.

Jackson supports proposed constitutional amendment on increasing the amount of state aid given to New Jersey's park system that will appear on the ballot in the upcoming Nov. 7 elections.

"The first law of thermodynamics for you non-engineers is that there is no such thing as a free lunch," said Jackson to an amused audience. "For environmentalists like myself, ballot initiative number two is the holy grail of environmentalism."

The ballot initiative would take existing funds that have been used for environmental purposes and reallocate the money to parks."

"Across the state, we have structures that are literally falling apart, there are unsafe places to swim, we have bathrooms that need to be fixed, needing any number of improvements, but we have never had money year after year to fund it," she said. "With this kind of steady funding, the state can bond and make real improvements in our parks. We can build and honor the world-class park system that all New Jerseyans deserve."

If approved by voters, the initiative would provide $15 million a year until 2015 and $32 million a year beginning in 2016 for maintenance and capital improvements at state parks, historic sites, and wildlife areas, according to the DEP.

The money would come from revenue already generated through the corporate business tax fund and would not require any new taxes.

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