CALDWELL, NJ — Membership fees are currently being refunded to members of the Caldwell Community Center (CCC), which announced this week that it will remain closed until at least January as a result of the current state restrictions on such facilities and the impact that these restrictions might have on the financial condition of the community center.
Citing new concerns about the CCC’s future ability to afford the costs of day-to-day operations as well as existing concerns about the physical condition of the building, the Borough of Caldwell has announced plans to establish a “task force” that will analyze the future of the CCC and identify the financial viability of the community center.
The task force will consist of about nine-to-12 residents—including both members and non-members of the CCC—as well as Mayor John Kelley, Borough Administrator Tom Banker, Council President Christine Schmidt and Councilman Henderson Cole. This group will also analyze the operation of the community center in the midst of a pandemic.
“The borough recognizes that the CCC has been a popular part of living in the Caldwells for almost two decades,” said Banker. “While we hope to be able to extend that run after the dust settles on the pandemic, for now, prudence and our fiduciary responsibility to the Caldwell taxpayers requires that we must take prompt action to minimize the financial burdens created by the CCC’s current situation.”
Although it is still unclear when the facility will be able to reopen, Banker noted that even if the facility is permitted to reopen sooner than expected, it is safe to assume that certain social-distancing requirements will remain in place, and the “effective capacity of the facility will be greatly diminished.”
According to the borough, the CCC has been intended to be a self-sufficient facility for more than 20 years with costs being “borne by its users and not at the expense of Caldwell property tax payers.”
Even when the center is generating extra revenue through programming such as the summer camp and operating at its full capacity, the CCC has struggled to reach its goals. If forced to operate at reduced capacity due to social-distancing efforts, which could also result in a reduction in membership, Banker said the center will likely not be able to cover the cost of day-to-day operations moving forward.
Additionally, the building itself has also suffered from years of improper maintenance, including the parking structure—which is currently limited to less than 50 percent of its capacity—as well as the roof, the central air conditioning and the pool heating and dehumidification equipment, which are all failing and are "in need of immediate replacement at great expense," according to the borough.
Banker said earlier this week that the need for capital investments, including the replacement of the parking capacity, totals more than $9 million. In order to have those costs covered by CCC, users it would require additional revenue beyond what has been achieved in recent years.
Although the borough has been looking to identify how to provide a stable, long-term approach that would allow the CCC to achieve self-sufficiency, analyses have not only revealed these same capital needs, but have also suggested that an increased membership base and a modified revenue structure could lead to the desired outcome.
"With the latest developments, however, the capital neither still pressing but the likelihood of improvements on the income side has fallen off precipitously," said Banker. "Given those realities it is now necessary that the borough take action so as to minimize the potential impact that the problems of the CCC will have on the Caldwell taxpayers. By shuttering the building and curtailing all programs, the borough will cut costs by over $120,000 a month for the remainder of 2020, as compared to the costs of being open and fully operational."
The governing body intends to share more information during the May 5 council meeting. Any taxpayers who are interested in being considered for the task force should submit their names to Councilman Henderson Cole at email@example.com.
Noting that the borough will continue to consider all ideas regarding the future of the CCC, Banker also urged residents to share their suggestions by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.