Boro to ask county for $205G; skate park could be funded

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KEYPORT —  Borough officials will apply for a county open space grant worth $205,000 to defray the costs of renovating Main Street Park, but rebuilding the park is far from a done deal.

If they are awarded the grant, town officials would need to come up with an equal sum to complete the proposed renovations, which has an estimated total price tag of $410,000.

Meanwhile, no other commitments to rebuild the park will be made. Only concepts for the park have been designed and full specs have not been developed, said Stephen Gallo, the borough manager.

“If we don’t get the grant we (the grant) we’d have to scale back significantly or cancel it,” Gallo said.

The proposed  improvements include a renovation to the tee-ball field, the addition of a skate park and a fitness area along the Henry Hudson Trail.
The councilors authorized the grant application in a 5-0 vote. Councilman Warren Chamberlain was absent.

Indeed, a mix of grants outside of the county award are being sought to help further whittle away the cost, officials said.

Any cost not covered by grants would be come out of the borough’s open space trust fund — a fund that is replenished with about $170,000 each year from a 2½-cent tax on every $100,000 of assessed value.

All of the park improvements were discussed, but it was the proposed skate park that drew most of the attention during a public hearing on the application.

Skate park. Skate Plaza. What’s the difference?

Recreation officials want the designated skateboard area proposed at Main Street Park to be called a skate plaza rather than a skate park. They say that the plaza is the now preferred type of park which forgoes tall industrial-style ramps penned in by towering chainlink fence in favor of an open design of casted concrete ramps with low profiles and artful lines.

All but one of the residents who spoke during the hearing were in favor of the project.

“This is fantastic,” said Barbara Pierce. “It would be ridiculous not to write this grant.”

The park’s central location between Broad and Main streets along the Henry Hudson Trail and Butler Street.

“You’ll be inviting people into town,” said Jennifer Henning. “This will be a boon for the town.”

It was only Bob Ludwig, a council chambers gadfly, that opposed the project by calling it a muster zone for drugs and anticipating horrible injuries.

Building the skate park had become a political issue of sorts.

A skate park planned for Division Street and championed by the Democratic administration of Robert Bergen was killed in February 2011. After Republicans won a majority of seats on the six-member council.

Former Mayor Robert McLeod killed the project on the pretense of cost, and sent a county open space grant back earmarked for the project back. He said the borough could not afford its share of the cost.

Today, Democrats control four of the six seats. And Gaylee Benedict, a Republican running for council, took a very different tone regarding the park Monday night.

“This is not just a skatepark. We are really addressing all the residents in town,” she said. “We have to let them know that this is an upgrade of the park system.”

Councilman Ken Howe, one of two Republicans on the council, balked earlier this month at the cost. He voted for the application, but he retieterated his position.

“If we don’t get the grant, we can’t afford it,” he said.