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Vol. LXIII, No. 39
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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Harrison Street Park Receives Go-Ahead After Council Debate

Dilshanie Perera

In a 4-1 vote, Borough Council approved the Harrison Street Park Rehabilitation project last week, with Council members David Goldfarb, Andrew Koontz, Barbara Trelstad, and Kevin Wilkes voting in favor of the project, and Roger Martindell voting against it, saying he would have supported it “under different circumstances.”

Mr. Martindell objected to the proposed ordinance on the grounds that not enough information regarding design elements was presented, that Council and the public had not engaged in an adequate discussion about the park, and that “we need to put this in the context of a plan for all the parks. How do we know we’re not shortchanging other neighborhoods to benefit this neighborhood?”

“I think this is money well spent,” Mr. Martindell acknowledged, “but it has to be spent in a democratic, reasonable way.”

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi explained that the most recent wave of planning for the park’s redevelopment began 2.5 years ago and included “an incredible amount of civic involvement,” adding that the space was one in which “we have not invested a nickel in at least 25 years,” hence the strong need for an overhaul.

Ms. Trelstad noted that she had not voted on the park earlier in the year with the intent for it to go to bid, and felt that another step was necessary before the approvals were granted by Council.

“I sat down in the basement [of Borough Hall] and reviewed sheet after sheet,” Mr. Wilkes said of the Harrison Street Park’s plan. “There was no prohibition on reviewing it.”

Mr. Martindell expressed frustration that Council had not discussed the project together as a group, and worried that “there is no documentation, no photos here, and no description” accompanying the ordinance.

“There is a detailed, specific plan that has been worked on for years, and that is available to the public,” Mr. Koontz said. “I have been involved with the rehabilitation of Harrison Street Park from the day I joined Council in 2003.”

He added that while the Borough was bonding for the full amount of the park, monies from the Recreation Department totaling $150,000 would be deducted from the Borough’s payments.

Characterizing the project as “something the park has needed for a very long time,” Mr. Wilkes said “I think we have a unique opportunity to do something with this park at an exceptional cost.”

Mr. Bruschi noted that Council’s approval would allow for the project to begin this year.

“I think we did skip a beat,” Ms. Trelstad affirmed, “but I believe the price is good and that we should probably move forward.”

Borough Engineer Chris Budzinski said that over 100 trees and shrubs would be planted according to the initial bid, and that the herbaceous plantings that needed to be done in the spring were not included in this proposal. An original contractor’s estimate for the spring planting was $50,000, and “using Borough forces,” he thinks the plants could be purchased for half the cost.

Neighbors and friends of Harrison Street Park who have been involved in the process expressed their approval for most of the project, except for the material out of which the park’s path would be created.

Martha Rinehart, Steve Downs, and Clifford Zink all suggested a decomposed granite pathway as opposed to an asphalt one, with Mr. Budzinski agreeing to put samples of both down in the park for the public to view and then make a decision. “My concern is the long-term maintenance of the decomposed granite,” he said, as it is prone to rutting.

Ms. Rinehart also noted that she had acquired eight solid teak benches from Market Fair that were being donated to the park, while Mr. Zink mentioned that the benches normally retail for $984, and are the same make and model that the Borough normally uses.

The approval of the ordinance granted the bid to JC Landscape Construction Management of Pequannock, New Jersey for the proposed $510,734.

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