WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council approved the construction of a skate park in Jenkins Park that could cost up to $190,131.33. The vote passed 4-1 with council President Joe Krakoviak being the only opposing vote at the July 11 council meeting.
Additional costs for the skate park include cameras and fencing, which could cost up to $16,850 and $4,250, respectively. The park will be located behind the West Orange Fire Department Headquarters on Valley Road.
Krakoviak said he didn’t oppose the skate park itself, he just thinks it isn’t necessary to spend the money on it right now.
“It would be nice to have, but it’s not necessary,” Krakoviak told the West Orange Chronicle in a July 20 phone interview.
The town has $2.5 million in debt service that Krakoviak believes should be spent elsewhere.
“We’re spending $2.5 million in debt service that in 2010 we were spending on police salaries, equipment and software,” he said, adding that another factor in his vote was this year’s 2-percent increase to property taxes in West Orange. “In a year that we’re putting more pressure on taxpayers, we should be using their money for more substantive things.”
According to West Orange CFO John Gross, the cost to build the park is $169,031.33. The fencing and cameras could add another $20,000.
“The cameras are definitely necessary,” Gross told the Chronicle in a July 19 phone interview. “We’re still debating on the fencing. It’s a matter of whether we feel that it’s necessary. The top end (of the cost) is $20,000, but we hope it will come in at less.”
Councilman Victor Cirilo voted in favor of building the skate park, citing the importance of recreation and the location of the park.
“It’s an area of high density; a lot of people live there,” Cirilo told the Chronicle in a July 21 phone interview. “The security is good with the fire station next door. And it would help the kids who are skating in public areas and near businesses to skate freely and safely.”
Cirilo said this is the right time to build the park instead of sitting on the money to be used for something different.
“In some ways we already did that,” he said. “Borrowing action was already taken in 2011, and this is the right time. It’s a good investment.”
Councilwoman Michelle Casalino’s concern was finding a safe place to build the skate park.
“I was familiar with the project from years ago when I was on the school board, and one of the sites was on the high school property,” Casalino said in a July 24 phone interview. “I didn’t support that because I thought it would be too crowded with the school buses.”
The Jenkins Park site is more ideal, according to Casalino, because of its close proximity to the fire house and because it is in an area where skating is already popular.
“It’s in a safe place that it will be monitored, and to me that was the most important,” Casalino said. “I wanted it to be in a place where there would be signage saying to wear helmets, and it wouldn’t take away the swings and other areas to play.
“People are always concerned about taxes,” Casalino said about the cost of building the skate park. “It’s a balancing act. You need to balance the needs of the residents with what things cost. We try to accommodate all the residents of the town.”