STAFFORD, NJ – Since Hurricane Sandy, residents of Beach Haven West and Village Harbor have been hoping to see Stafford Township build a community center in their section of the township. The town recently opened the Bay Avenue Community Center at the site of the former town hall. This is a large building that has great potential for use by residents of the township.
A new center in Beach Haven West would replace the former Mill Creek Community Center which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. One of the concerns of some residents was the desire to see a commercial kitchen included in the design of that facility. The Stafford Township Mayor and Council have balked at that request due to the increased cost of that type of kitchen.
The new community center on Bay Avenue has a commercial kitchen that is available for use by Stafford community groups and residents.
A number of questions were asked during the public comment portion of the meeting about the desire to see a commercial kitchen in the plans. The council was asked to include that commercial kitchen into the plans. The council was non-committal throughout this portion of the meeting.
At the conclusion of the public comment portion of the meeting, Mayor John Spodofora shared a statement on behalf of the Mayor and Council. This statement clarifies their current position on a potential Beach Haven West community center.
Mayor Spodofora concluded the meeting with the following statement.
“As everyone is aware immediately following Super Storm Sandy it was determined that the Millcreek Community Center was damaged beyond repair. This fact triggered a three- year debate with FEMA and our insurer in attempts to secure funding to replace the building.
Throughout that process it became clear that the location of the community center in Beach Haven West was less than ideal if it was determined that we could or should only build one facility.
The Mayor and Council decided that they would move the location to the site of the old town hall on East Bay Avenue which had functioned as a community center and emergency station immediately following the storm.
This determination was made based on what was best for the entire community in terms of location, functionality and if necessary, emergency response.
The old town hall site is on the edge of the flood zone not in the center of the flood zone. The old town hall suffered no flooding during the storm. Its proximity to emergency services as well as medical and other necessary services made it the ideal location to address any emergency facing the township whether it be flooding to the east or fire to the west.
This decision was reached after much discussion and deliberation based on the fact that the funding available would be for one and only one building.
The Mayor and Council continued to plan for the construction of a Mill Creek facility and has in fact looked at several possibilities and some funding options.
The debate has continued and the points raised over size and adequacy of the facility have actually given rise to a concern that perhaps the best course of action is to evaluate the current program and the two existing facilities in operation and then determine what type and how large a facility should be built or if one should be built at all in Beach Haven West.
At this time and based on the bids we had received on a smaller facility in that Beach Haven West location the investment in a community center in Beach Haven West is projected to be in excess of 1.5 million dollars without the prospect of funding from any outside source.
This would mean that the taxpayers of Stafford are solely financially responsible for this facility.
The Mayor and Council have determined that the most prudent course of action for all the residents of Stafford Township is to delay the construction of a facility in Beach Haven West pending an evaluation of the existing facilities in operation.
If at that time a determination is made to construct a new facility on Mill Creek Road we will then have adequate information upon which to determine the scope and size of the project based on the needs of the community.”
Editor’s Note: Residents are welcome to comment and share their opinion about a new community center in Beach Haven West by submitting your opinion on our “Letters to the Editor” section.