WEST ORANGE, NJ – Following much deliberation over how to find a balance between funding quality-of-life amenities and upgrading the West Orange Fire Department facilities, the West Orange Township Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution approving the 2018 West Orange municipal budget. With the exception of Councilman Joe Krakoviak, the council voted in favor of adopting a municipal budget of $83,225,484.
Krakoviak explained that he felt there was a need to review certain budget items— specifically some quality-of-life amenities—that in his opinion should not be a priority at a time when an estimated $2 million is needed to upgrade the fire department facilities in the coming years. The non-essential amenity that he and citizens who spoke during the meeting cited most frequently was building an ice bumper-car venue in O’Connor Park that would cost $110,000.
Stating that “taxes in West Orange are spiraling out of control,” resident Gary Van Wyk added that taxpayers “should not be funding an ice bumper car venue for $110,000.”
“This is on top of a $220,000 skate park that was approved last year, and a $550,000 car park,” he said. “This is nearly $1 million we shouldn’t be spending. The ice bumper-car project is a rash expenditure that is a burden to my budget.”
“Besides the $110,000 to build the ice bumper car venue, this could expand the town’s liability insurance,” said resident Sally Malanga. “How much will it take to keep it up?...It’s not the town’s responsibility to run a carnival.”
Mayor Robert Parisi was present to defend his budget recommendations, which included building the ice bumper-car venue. The mayor said he got this idea when he witnessed how successful these venues are in Rhode Island, and how much fun they brought to the children there. He added that the venue could also be a new means of revenue for the township.
“You know I am a big believer in recreational activities,” he said. “Bringing in the ice bumper cars is a great opportunity for community engagement in the winter. It brings the community and families together. It’s a good way to get families to go out and enjoy some winter fun. Amenities such as this are important for our community.”
Parisi added that the essential improvements to the fire department facilities have already begun, and will continue in a timely way in the coming years. He said the upgrades are necessary and will proceed, but that it should not negate the need to bring amenities into West Orange that could improve the quality of life for families and children.