WOODLAND PARK, NJ - A special public hearing was held regarding a Green Acres grant application for Rose Place Park at the recent Woodland Park council meeting.

Council members approved a resolution to authorize the submission of a grant application with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program.

Mayor Keith Kazmark presented a map of Rose Place Park during the council meeting that entailed "buffer" areas that separate the park from residential homes, which he said has been diminished over time. Recent renovations have been made to both Rose Place and Zaccaria Parks in recent months, which are slated to be completed by the spring. However, the new state grant might allow much needed further improvements between the park and residential areas.

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"What we have determined with this initial project is that we have lost some of the buffer zone between the park area and the residents on Rose Place and Highview Drive," he explained. "What we want to do is restore that buffer zone, maybe beyond what was initially there. Remember that this park was built in 1972, through the Green Acres program back then."

Kazmark added that the existing wooded area was there prior to the parks' development.

"There was a lot of overgrowth up in that park, and unfortunately, was not necessarily maintained well through the years, which affected the life of some of the plant life and some of the trees," he added. "There is a substantial amount of dead trees, so part of the renovations would be to remove any dead trees. I met with a lot of residents up there who are concerned with the lack of a buffer area."

Kazmark said the borough has pursued improvement to both Rose Place Park and Zaccaria Park over the past year and he expects the initial work on both parks to be completed by the spring, with a grand opening  of the parks to be held in June.

However, he said the addition of the restoration and enhancement grant, which would be a matching grant and not a low-interest loan program, is something that the borough would be interested in pursuing to help with further improvements to the area.

"In the past we have been only eligible for low interest loans from Green Acres, which is the NJDEP offering grant awards to municipalities," he added. "This is the first time Green Acres has made this new matching grant available."

He thanked Susan Scavone, grant writer from Millenium Strategies.

"Sue has been our grant writer since 2012 and has adequately prepared this grant application," Kazmark added.

Scavone further elaborated on the new grant opportunity from the Green Acres program during the council meeting.

"This is the first time that they're offering it and we wanted to jump on it," she said. "It's $700,000 in the pot so we wanted to be very strategic with this project. Working with the mayor, the municipal clerk Kevin Galland and the town's engineer Nordan Murphy - who did a fantastic job of really conceptualizing and putting this strategic project together. We're coming into a project that's about $100,000 so it's 50 percent match. It's a really good grant for Woodland Park."

Kazmark noted that the due date for the grant application to the state is on Feb 15.

Council members also approved a four-year contract between the borough and their local union representing clerical, as well as dispatch workers. Kazmark and council members, after several negotiations and an executive session, authorized the execution of the new contract for the time period of Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2018.

"This is 2 percent salary increase, which will now be in line with the state's 2 percent cap on the budget," added Kazmark.