City to borrow $2.3m for Rahway River Park

The City Council on Wednesday night introduced a $2.35-million bond ordinance (07-14) to fund its share of a massive upgrade of facilities at Rahway River Park. A public hearing and final approval is scheduled at the March 10 regular meeting.

The plan — as outlined by Interim Mayor Samson Steinman in his State of the City address — is in the preliminary design phase, according to City Administrator Cherron Rountree. The current field at Rahway River Park would be renovated to include a turf field, eight-lane track and area for field events, lights, 5,000-seat bleachers, press box, two team pavilions, a concession stand with bathrooms, and fencing. Groundbreaking is expected by the fall.

Rahway_River_ParkThe city’s $2.3-million portion of the project is expected to impact the average assessed Rahway home at $7.60 annually, according to Rountree. It’s unclear how much the county’s portion of the project would impact taxes, or whether that will come from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund or the county’s capital improvement budget. The county portion is expected to be about the same as the city’s share ($2.3 million), according to Rountree, who worked in various capacities at the county before becoming city administrator last year.

“This is a perfect example of true shared services,” Rountree said, calling it a three-way partnership because the county was looking to do improvements at Rahway River Park and included the city in its planning. “The city would not have the financial resources to upgrade and/or purchase a property to build a facility of this sort…and the county does not have a need to have the additional components that the city is proposed to add.”  The city will be able to reserve a pre-set number of events each year at the facility before the general public.

The alternatives would be to continue using Veterans Field, which floods,  or to complete the project without the county, which Rountree said would be “at least double what we intend to spend on this project before acquisition or costs associated with correcting drainage issues.”

RahwayRiverPark.overheadAt the present time, Rountree said there are no plans for adding parking at Rahway River Park, which also includes Walter E. Ulrich Pool.

Included in the mayor’s announcements last month were upgrades to the county’s Greenfield Park adjacent to Rahway Middle School and the field behind Madison School.

There are no cost estimates yet for the Greenfield Park project because the county is handling the entire project, Rountree said. There are two turf fields planned, one for football and rugby and another for soccer, and the city has asked for a T-ball field as well as requested the county to repave the middle school parking lot in conjunction with the improvements. It’s expected to break ground sometime in 2015.

The field behind Madison School and the high school will receive a $120,000 grant through the county’s Kids’ Recreation Trust (which is funded from the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund), in addition to about $170,000 from the Board of Education and $200,000 from the city, Rountree said. Groundbreaking is expected by the summer, possibly the spring.

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