ORANGE, NJ — On Tuesday, Dec. 1, the majority of the Orange City Council voted to approve two new resolutions giving Mayor Dwayne Warren’s administration the power to go ahead with the $2.5 million deal to buy the old YWCA building on Main Street and convert it into a new citywide Recreation Center.
The vote was a unanimous 6-0 for resolutions 284-2015 and 285-2015, even though all seven of the council members attended and participated in the meeting. At large Councilwoman Donna K. Williams did not vote on either resolution because she recused herself, since she is a former YWCA board member.
Resolution 284-2015 authorized the Warren administration to submit and accept the $2.5 million direct appropriation grant from the state Department of Community Affairs. Resolution 285-2015 allows the council to insert the $2.5 million into the calendar year 2015 City Budget.
Neither Warren nor anyone in his administration responded by press time this week.
Attempts to get a comment from Council President April Gaunt-Butler were also unsuccessful.
“I voted on the grant application and the grant award letter to the administration,” said West Ward Councilman Harold L. Johnson on Tuesday, Dec. 8. “Those resolutions were to move that money. That’s all that it was about.”
This vote was the latest step in Warren’s master plan to buy the old YWCA and convert it into a new Recreation Center, but Johnson said it wasn’t the last step in the process.
“The big deal is the $1.25 million that’s going to be the first part of that grant award,” said Johnson.
“How are they going to buy the building, when it costs as much as the grant gives — $1.25 million? It just doesn’t add up. On Dec. 14, we have a special meeting scheduled with the administration to lay out to us how they’re going to acquire the building. They’re saying that it’s not going to cost anything and the taxes aren’t going to increase.”
Johnson said the Warren administration’s numbers for the YWCA deal don’t add up.
“The administration is saying they want to use $150,000 to hire someone to administer the grant,” Johnson said. “Everything that they’ve projected for the repairs and renovations were lowball numbers. The Dec. 14 meeting is very critical. They’ve got to lay it out for us. It will be the turning point for the deal.”
The initial plan was to lease the building, with the option to buy, but that proved problematic for some in the city, since the YWCA is bankrupt. The old YWCA has been in receivership as a result of bankruptcy proceedings and, as yet, the administration has been dealing with a court-appointed trustee. Warren, however, has said he does not see this as a problem.
“The new proposed Orange Recreational and Cultural Center, dubbed ‘The REC’, aims to provide much-needed programming for children, seniors and families,” Warren said in a press statement on Monday, Nov. 2. “I and senior administration officials will report to the public on the status of the proposed multi-purpose recreation center for the city of Orange Township.
Everything is in place to move ahead with this project, but we want to update the citizens of the city of Orange Township on the status of The REC.”
Warren said he is having the meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, because, “We want to quell any rumors or concerns regarding The REC, and the best way to do that is to give a public report and answer any questions citizens may have.” He said anyone interested in learning more about the YWCA deal or the REC in general can call 973-266-4005.