NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – In two significant moves that will have a direct impact on most residents, the Borough Council announced plans to open the bidding process for a liquor-by-the-drink license and the start of what appears to be a major move to address nagging recreation field inadequacies.
Mayor J. Brooke Hern said the borough would begin accepting sealed bids for the first of four available liquor licenses in October. The minimum acceptable bid is $400,000. The sealed bids would be accepted in December and opened in January after a new Borough Council is seated.
“The highest qualified bidder will be awarded the borough’s first liquor license,” the mayor said.
Prior to the bidding process, the borough will engage in an active marketing effort to maximize the number of bidders.
“We’re going to market to entities that we think fit into the vision of what kind of downtown we want,” Hern said.
The mayor said the reason for awarding only one license at this time was to maximize the value of subsequent licenses.
Gary Kapner, a member of the Planning Board who has been very involved in the liquor license process, told TheAlternativePress.com, "We’re looking to attract quality full service restaurants. We want to make New Providence a business and economic destination by providing more reasons for people to eat and shop in our downtown area."
The Borough Council also authorized a $5,000 expenditure to an engineering firm to provide a plan to renovate Hillview Field.
Rough plans originally presented by Councilman Alan Lesnewich called for a $197,000 expenditure that included limited synthetic turf for a baseball infield and a redesign of the soccer field that would expand usage by a re-configured field allowing grass in front of goals to be “rested.”
Lesnewich told TheAlternativePress.com, "This has been and will continue to be a team effort. There were several resident volunteers along with members of the Council and Recreation Department who collaborated on this project. We held several public meetings and informational sessions to gather input from residents as we proceeded. We hope this will be the first of many improvements to the Borough's active and passive recreational facilities."
He continued, "The plans at Hilllview reflect the desire to create a safe environment and to allow coaches more time preparing their players for the game instead of the infield surface. The project will include an artificial surfaced infield, new sprinkler system and drainage which will allow for a grass maintenance program to improve and maintain the outfields/soccer field portion of the park."
“This is the first phase of a solid commitment to address issues to improve our fields,” Hern said.
He added that field improvements have been a hot button issue for council members and the community at large. He added the issue has never been on whether to improve fields, but rather, how best to get the effort accomplished.
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen a high level of co-operation within the council and with community residents concerned about changes to their neighborhoods,” Hern said.
The mayor emphasized that Hillview Field was only the beginning. Plans call for addressing needs at Lincoln Field and Oakwood Park.
Lesnewich said, "All in all, we hope that this project, along with the ongoing improvements to Verterans' Park and Walking Trails project along the Passaic River at Oakwood Park, is the first in a series of steps to improve parks that the all residents of New Providence will enjoy for many years to come. We have gotten nothing but positive feedback."
Councilman Rob Munoz told TheAlternativePress.com, "The Borough Council took action on three important issues that will affect the quality of life of all New Providence residents. None of the decisions we made were entered into lightly. The improvement of our parks, the sale of our first liquor license, and our decision to move forward on the joint dispatch center were all debated thoroughly by members of the council and mayor."
He continued, "I think we made the best decisions on all three of those issues for what's best for our town. As a parent, I am looking forward to having our children play in our improved park system. I also believe that the sale of our first liquor license will give us dining options that we don't currently have in New Providence. The governing body took great care in crafting a liquor ordinance to make sure that any establishment serving alcohol does not negatively affect the quality of life of New Providence residents. Lastly, the shared dispatch will provide a quality of service and safety to both New Providence and summit that neither town has seen individually thus far."
Munoz concluded, "I think these are exciting times for New Providence."