Orange Council approves purchase of YWCA building

ORANGE, NJ — The purchase of the old YWCA building at 395 Main St. for $1.5 million to facilitate Mayor Dwayne Warren’s plan to convert it into a new Senior and Youth Recreation Center was approved by a majority of the Orange City Council on Tuesday, March 1.

For Resolution 12-2016, North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason, South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson, at large Councilman and Council Vice President Elroy Corbitt and East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley voted in favor; West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson voted against; and City Council President April Gaunt-Butler and at large Councilwoman Donna K. Williams abstained.

“Again, this is a very difficult decision for me,” said Gaunt-Butler, prior to the vote, on Tuesday, March 1. “It’s hard for me to vote for it for the reasons I’ve given. It’s hard for me to vote against it for the reasons I’ve given.”

Johnson said voting against the resolution wasn’t hard for him to do at all.

“The firm hired to evaluate the building did three reports,” said Johnson on Tuesday, March 1. “One report lists $629,000 to do the roof work. I just want to know from the administration if they are going to take the recommendation of the firm to use this money to do that vital work.”

Johnson said the second report dealt with the environmental and public-health issues extant in the YWCA building right now, as the city is in the process of purchasing it. He said documented issues with mold and the fact that, despite those concerns, Warren has gone on record stating programs and activities are taking place right now in the facility, were enough for him to vote against the resolution.

“The other report, when you get to environmental assessment, there are two documents that the firm did specifically on the YWCA ability to do child care,” said Johnson.

The council vote on Tuesday, March 1, was another step Warren administration officials said the city needed to take in order to actually get the $2.5 million grant money from the state Department of Community Affairs. The mayor detailed that process earlier this year in the series of special meetings regarding the purchase and conversion of the old YWCA building on Main Street.

“The terms of the grant are as follows,” said Warren at the council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14. “Upon completion of the application, along with the resolution, it will get forwarded to the state for a check for $1.25 million. That will go into an escrow account, pending the council approving the purchase. Once that’s done, they will release a check for $250,000.”