ORANGE, NJ — Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren ended his public report on the status of the proposed new Recreation Center that involves the purchase and conversion of the old YWCA building on Main Street on Monday, Nov. 9, with a promise to come to the City Council meeting Monday Nov. 16, and do it again.
This didn’t happen. City Council President April Gaunt-Butler said she spoke with the mayor on Monday, Nov. 16, and they decided it was best he reschedule his appearance to discuss the YWCA deal for a later date.
“I did speak with the mayor today,” Gaunt-Butler said at the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, a day earlier than normally scheduled council meetings because the annual League of Municipalities was scheduled in Atlantic City from Tuesday, Nov. 17, through Friday, Nov. 20. “He is going to be on the agenda for the Dec. 1 meeting to discuss the YWCA. I did request that he give us information about the deal before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so we can look through it thoroughly before Dec. 1.”
Gaunt-Butler said she and Warren updated the “Matters for Discussion” for the council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1, but some members of both the council and public expressed displeasure the discussion about the YWCA would be delayed again.
“The YWCA; the thing is unbelievable,” former South Ward Councilman and City Council President William Lewis said at the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. “The mayor said he got a grant for $2.5 million. He can’t get that without getting approval from you.”
At large Councilman Elroy Corbitt came to Warren’s defense, saying he doubted the mayor would come to a public meeting and discuss a deal to get money to buy and renovate the old YWCA, if he wasn’t sure he had it.
But that was small consolation for East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley and West Ward Councilman Harold L. Johnson Jr., who said they are still waiting for Warren or Deputy Business Administrator Willis Edwards to come before the council with concrete information about the YWCA deal.
Johnson stressed the need for government transparency and accountability to taxpaying constituents, while Coley asked city Clerk Joyce Lanier for an update on the council’s ongoing efforts to get any information about the YWCA deal from the Warren administration.
“I have a question for the madam clerk,” Coley said on Monday, Nov. 16. “Have you received any information about the grant for the YWCA?”
Lanier responded, “No, I have not.”
“Neither have we,” he reiterated. “So I cannot comment on anything about the YWCA because I have not seen anything.”.
North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason said if Coley and Johnson haven’t heard anything about the $2.5 million grant Warren said he had received to purchase and renovate the old YWCA, it’s because they haven’t attended any of the meetings where they were discussed.
Eason said Coley and Johnson didn’t attend the mayor’s report on the YWCA deal on Monday, Nov. 9, so for them to criticize the mayor on the deal is unfair.
“There was a forum on the Y and a couple of council people chose not to attend,” North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason said on Monday, Nov. 16.
“Everybody could have been there. That would have been the place to ask all these questions about the YWCA deal. The mayor did offer a resolution, but somebody suggested we put it off. But I hope he gives it to us soon, so we can vote on it. I don’t want to spend my holiday talking about the YWCA.”