For the second time this month, the city council on Tuesday night rejected a $2.6 million borrowing measure to renovate Hinchliffe Stadium and make improvements to other recreation facilities by citing lack of information from mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration about where the funds will be spent.
Council members said the administration did not provide enough information for them to support the borrowing measure. The administration provided slightly more information to the council than it did the previous week. This week, the administration listed the various projects the bonding measure would support:
- $750,000 to match funds for environmental remediation for Hinchcliffe Stadium, Overlook Park, and the ATP site
- $400,000 for replacement of fieldhouse at Bauerle Field
- $700,000 for Hinchcliffe Stadium phase-one construction
- $900,000 for Paterson Armory rehabilitation.
“We have plans for that?” asked McKoy about the prefab fieldhouse proposed for Bauerle Field. “So, we’re bonding to pay for something, but we haven’t seen what we’re getting for $400,000? I’m paying for it, but I don’t even know if it has bathroom hook ups. I don’t know if it provides for boys and girls. I don’t know if it’s made out of steel. I know nothing about it, but I’m paying $400,000 for it.”
“They don’t even have the correct spelling for us,” remarked Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, pointing to the — difficult to spell — misspelled name of Bauerle Field in the attachment to the bond resolution.
There was also questions about the $900,000 for the piece of the Paterson Armory that remains. Budget officer Margaret Cherone said the funds are being set-aside as a contingency in case the city fails to attract a developer to rehabilitate the armory. She said the city would rehab the building using that amount.
Council members also had questions about the borrowing for Hinchcliffe Stadium. Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, and Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, wanted a breakdown of the funds so far spent on the stadium.
There was a document distributed providing a list of expenses incurred to restore Hinchcliffe Stadium. Jackson claimed there was at least $2.5 million spent on the stadium to complete studies; however, the document distributed to council members showed $1.2 million.
“I don’t know of any $2.5 million,” replied business administrator Nellie Pou.
“How much money did we spend on Hinchcliffe Stadium? I know it’s not $2.2 million,” said Mendez. “How much money have we spent so far?”
Funds spent on Hinchcliffe Stadium
The city awarded a $338,000 contract to New York City-based Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) for architectural and engineering work in 2013. In 2015, the council awarded a $1 million contract to the same firm for phase-one bidding administration, construction administration, phase-two schematic design, preparation of construction documents, and construction administration.
This firm filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and the contracts were re-assigned. “No action was finalized,” said Pou when speaking about the firm’s bankruptcy to answer Jackson’s questions. The $1 million contract was assigned to Trenton-based Clarke Caton Hintz and the $338,000 contract was assigned to New York-based Architectural Preservation Studio (APS), officials said in 2016.
In 2016, the city awarded a $103,000 contract to Retail Development Strategies (RDS) for a market study.
In all, the city has appears to have spent $1.4 million on Hinchcliffe Stadium, based on an analysis of previous reporting by the Paterson Times and other local newspapers.
Last week, the council approved a $1.48 million contract to Mount Laurel-based Wu & Associates to restore the exterior concrete wall on the Liberty Street side of the stadium, repair façade, restore terracotta title roofing on all four ticket booths, repair decorative tile and elements, and restore four cast concrete Hinchliffe Stadium signs
The latest contract award pushes the expenditures on the stadium to almost $2.9 million.
“It will be the first time, in 20 years, we’ll have a brick and mortar project at the stadium,” said Gianfranco Archimede, director of the Paterson Historic Preservation. The funds for the latest contract comes from a combined grant of $800 from the American Express Foundation and the New Jersey Historic Trust and $685,425 from the municipal government.
The city’s portion comes from the $2.6 million bond that was rejected once last week and a second time on Tuesday night. Council members voted 4-4 to reject the measure. The bond ordinance needed six votes for passage. Councilman Shahin Khalique was not present during the vote.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, cited the city’s eroding debt capacity to vote against the measure. The city has $120 million in outstanding debt. It has the capacity to take on another $110 million, according to Neil Grossman, the city’s financial advisor.
Paterson can borrow a total of $230 million, according to the state’s formula based on the municipal tax base.
Grossman said the projected interest rate on the $2.6 million is 3.5-percent. He said the bond would be paid back in 15 years. He said the city is securing a lower rate by going through the Passaic County government. He tried to alleviate some of Morris’ concerns by stating the city has been paying as much as $15 million per year on its outstanding debt.
“Because the city has historically borrowed for 10-15 yeas rather than 20-30 years you have very rapid pay back of debt,” said Grossman.
With the rejection of the bond measure, the city will have less than 90 days to find the funds to cover the contract awarded by the council last week or restart the long bidding process. The contract has yet to be executed, said finance director Fabiana Mello.
Both the business administrator and the budget officer said the council will be supplied with the information it is requesting to reconsider the bond measure for a third time.