ORANGE, NJ — Orange Business Administrator Chris Hartwyck was the featured attraction at South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson’s Community Meeting at Heywood Avenue School on Wednesday, April 26, although at large Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten discussed vacant and abandoned buildings, Orange Recreation Department Greg Tynes spoke and the Orange Police Department gave a public safety update.
Hartwyck spoke about the vacant and abandoned buildings issue Wooten had raised, the fact that the city’s new rec center inside the old YWCA building on Main Street has been closed for repairs, the redevelopment plans for the old Orange Memorial Hospital site and the city’s bright future when it comes to attracting outside interest and investment to Orange.
“I was born in Orange, so I’m not a stranger to this city and I started on this job nine months ago and we’ve made a lot of progress in nine months,” said Hartwyck on Wednesday, April 26. “I venture to say that the working relationship in the last nine months has improved between the administration and the council and a lot more things are getting done. When it comes to code enforcement and property maintenance, there is in fact an ordinance on the books. It is an incredibly detailed ordinance; it takes up about 20 pages in the code book.”
Hartwyck said there were only two full-time code inspectors nine months ago, but now there are four full-time code inspectors and a full-time zoning officer. He also said, “The code enforcement piece is a work in progress” because Orange is a “big city,” despite the fact that it’s only 2.2 square miles.
“The good news is that the volume of compliance and the volume of violations being issued has gone up dramatically,” Hartwyck said. “So if you have an issue with a particular property or you see something, there are two things you can do. On the city’s website, there is a 24-hour line telephone number that you can call and leave a message any time and that phone is manned throughout the day. We move that phone around to different people and they report the different issues that come in and then they are dispersed to the appropriate departments to deal with and, at the end of the day, the person who made the call — if it’s not anonymous — you’re supposed to get a call back, either by telephone or email.”
But the big news of the night was the new rec center closure. Tynes gave up a portion of his presentation time to allow Hartwyck to answer a question from a resident who asked if there were any programs for city youth going on at the old YWCA location.
“The Y is closed now for renovations,” said Tynes at the meeting, and let Hartwyck take over.
“The Y is closed for renovations. We shut it down so that we could stage the construction because there’s some preparation work that we have to do before the construction,” Hartwyck said. “Bids are currently out for the roof, the HVAC system and bids are being prepared and finalized for the renovation of the pool, the locker rooms, the bathrooms, handicap accessibility, new fire systems and additional code upgrades. We need to upgrade the electrical panel; we need to upgrade some of the plumbing code to bring the building up to current code.”
When asked by a resident about the timeline for finishing the construction on the old YWCA, Hartwyck replied, “We’re hopeful that the renovations will be complete so that the building will be available to us next summer for programming.”
“The construction process we estimate to be about eight months,” Hartwyck. “We’re hopeful that we don’t run into any weather delays in the winter.”
According to Summers-Johnson, she started holding community meetings for her ward constituents to make sure they have access to valuable information about the community.
“I try to make the meetings one hour just to give you a taste of what’s going on,” said Summers-Johnson on Wednesday, April 26.
She added that the next meetings will take place May 3 and in June. At the June meeting, Summers-Johnson said she will, “try to bring the directors back out.”
To learn more about upcoming South Ward Community Meetings or any other issues in Orange, call Hartwyck at 973-266-4010.