Atlantic County’s freeholders are working to return to their roots.
The board wants to move back to the county offices on Main Street in Mays Landing for its weekly Tuesday meetings, said Freeholder Chair Frank Formica. The move could come in the next year, he said.
Formica said the move has been discussed over the years and county employees are examining the county building to see the feasibility of moving the offices to the old county courthouse.
The freeholders currently meet at the county offices on Dolphin Avenue in Northfield on Tuesday afternoons, but Formica said the room is not big enough.
The board also periodically holds meetings throughout the county to make it easier for people to attend.
The move would mean be a bigger space that is more centrally located for the residents of the county's 23 municipalities.
"Someone from Egg Harbor City or Hammonton won't have to battle shore traffic to Northfield to attend a meeting," he said.
The move to return the meetings to Hamilton Township has been in the plans for more than 20 years, but work was needed to be done on the building. Formica and other county officials toured the facility two weeks ago and he said he will work to expedite the move of the freeholders' offices to take effect sometime in 2013.
"We're starting to put together the plan to bring the freeholders to the county seat where everyone thinks (they) belong," he said. "This thing is on a clear path that we can see."
Formica said the move would not be made if it would cost a lot of additional money for improvements.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said it is up to the freeholder board to decide where to meet but that he would support the move to the township. Levinson said it would make it easier for people to attend the meetings.
"Mays Landing is the county seat," he said. "It's where county business should be done."
The plans are welcome news to township officials who say hosting the freeholders is important to Mays Landing maintaining its designation as the county seat.
Mayor Roger Silva has offered the freeholders the use of the township's Municipal Building on 13th Street in the township to host their meetings as they wait for the county building to be ready.
"They have not realized this is the county seat," he said.
John Kurtz, president of the Mays Landing Merchants Association, said when the new courthouse opened six years ago in the township's Business Park it hurt a lot of the businesses in downtown Mays Landing that now see less foot traffic.
"The hope is with the freeholders moving it can bring some of that back," he said. "We're looking forward to it."
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