Public hearing on Main St. Park renovations; Are you going?

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KEYPORT — Plans to improve Main Street Park, which include a skate plaza, will be the subject of a hearing tonight, but the decision to build is already starting to break along years-old partisan lines.

The hearing is supposed to garner input on a plan to improve the entire park, which is located along Butler Street between Broad and Main streets. Those plans include building a regulation tee-ball field, picnic area and fitness stations, according to a concept plan posted on the borough’s website

However, the reserved skateboard area is what’s grabbing the attention of some borough councilors.

At the latest session of  the Borough Council, Councilman Ken Howe said he was opposed to the project based on the estimated price tag of $410,000, which he said is a much larger figure than earlier estimates from years past of $65,000 and then $110,000 for excusive skateboard park projects.

“I’m opposed to $410,000,” Howe said. “I’m opposed to this skate park doubling in size.

Howe is a one of two Republicans on the Borough Council. His party, under the leadership of former Mayor Robert McLeod, killed a skate park in February 2011 planned for Division Street between Third and East Front Streets on the basis it cost too much money, according to an Independent report.

The hearing is coming on the heels of the sixth Skate Jam, a Keyport Recreation Commission-sponsored event held annually at the Hazlet Skate Park.

“We started this to give the kids something to look forward to,” said Chris Matarese, a recreation commission member and one of the leading supporters of a skate park.

If you go:

What: Public hearing on Main Street Park renovations.

Where: Keyport Borough Hall, West Front Street.

When: 6 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2015.

To Matarese, the park would give kids “a place to their thing.”

“They’re already being kicked out of the parking lots,” she said. “They are getting in trouble for doing what they want.”

Indeed, swarms of skateboarders and packs of other teenagers have been congregating in the parking lot at Waterfront Park where many skate through the lanes between parked cars.

The behavior caught Mayor Harry Aumack II’s eye in early July.

At the time, he had two concerns: the garbage left behind and the perception visitors to the waterfront might have when confronted with that scene.

He said he was happy to see the teens having such a good time, but he still instructed Police Chief George Casaletto to have his officers pay closer attention.

Matarese disagreed that the cost of the park renovations is something to balk at. Half of the money would be provided by an open space grant, she said. The commission is applying for grants to cover as much of the remaining half as possible.

What grants can’t cover wouldn’t have to come from the borough’s general coffers, Matarese insisted. The renovations could be paid for by using the money collected for open space purposes — a dedicated 2.5-cents property tax that was approved by referendum. A portion of that money could be earmarked for Main Street Park until the renovations are paid, she said.