WEST ORANGE, NJ — The township received $431,200 in Community Development Block Grants to make improvements to several roads in town as well as to the Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool, the Main Street Counseling Center and the Bethany Center for Champions. West Orange received the second highest amount of money in the county after only Essex County as a whole through the awards. The grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and administered by the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development.
“Programs supported through the CDBG and ESG programs are direct investments to provide services that enhance our quality of life and help stabilize our neighborhoods by modernizing our infrastructure and supporting programs that assist vulnerable populations,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a Feb. 23 press release. “These federal grants enable us to upgrade our sidewalks and roads, enhance handicap access, address mental health needs, support food pantries and stimulate the overall development in our communities.”
To be eligible for the grants, municipalities must meet criteria that are determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds are not part of the county budget and cannot be used as revenue in the operating budget.
The street improvements that the grants will be used for in West Orange will benefit Columbia and Mead streets; $192,900 will be used on Columbia Street, where new curbs will be installed and drainage improvements will be made, according to township engineer Len Lepore in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on Feb. 27. The $116,620 that was awarded for Mead Street will be used to repave the road.
The Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool will also undergo renovations as a result of the CDB grants, according to Lepore. These renovations will be under the umbrella of the Americans with Disabilities Act to make entrances and exits to the facility more accessible.
“We’re expanding the parking lot adjacent to the pool for handicap parking,” Lepore said, explaining that the new entrances and exits from the pool facility will now be ADA compliant. “That will cost $152,880.”
Lepore said that the improvements to the pool will come sometime after the 2018 summer season.
“We’ll be setting up this spring, and you won’t see anything else at the pool until after the summer season,” he said. “In September we’ll be able to start the process.”
Residents were requesting improvements to all of the areas that West Orange received grant money to improve, but the pool was one that most residents agreed needed an upgrade.
“Certainly for the pool, we were hearing from residents,” Lepore said. “We’ll be able to improve that now.”