After almost an hour of discussion, the city council on Tuesday evening approved a $1.38 million borrowing measure to fund environmental remediation at Hinchliffe Stadium, Overlook Park, and the ATP site. The bond also funds first phase of construction at the stadium, according to the ordinance.
Council members narrowly approved the borrowing measure, which required a super majority, in a 6-2 vote. Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, and Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, opposed the borrowing measure.
“What are we spending this money on? Don’t give me vague descriptions,” said Jackson. “There should be an expenditures list. I don’t see anything here that outlines an end game.” He said mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration has not provided specifics as to where the borrowed funds will be spent.
Economic development director Ruben Gomez said the administration provided its plans and other documents to the council. He said a 300-page document detailing the construction of the Hinchliffe Stadium was provided to the council.
“It was sent to every council member,” added business administrator Nellie Pou.
“It was 2,000 pages I had to copy to make sure that you all received a copy of this document. It’s there. The detail is there. I can’t include it all in an ordinance,” said Gomez.
Cotton said she opposed the measure because of the uncertainty surrounding ownership of the stadium.
“We don’t have control of it,” said Cotton.
At this time, the Board of Education owns the stadium. The school board has a shared services agreement with the city. However, the improvements are being paid for by the municipality.
Both the school board president Christopher Irving and mayor Jose “Joey” Torres appear to be interested in swapping Bauerle Fields and Hinchliffe Stadium. However, nothing has been finalized as of yet.
The mayor initially wanted to borrow $2.6 million to also fund a project at the Paterson Armory. After Torres’ massive $35 million borrowing for road repairs the council has gotten wary of the mayor’s appetite for swiping the proverbial credit card.
Torres had to reduce that amount to $1.38 million to secure approval from the council. His administration also had to gain approval from the state’s Local Finance Board. Patersonians have expressed their desire to see the stadium restored in a referendum in 2009. The voters gave the city permission to borrow $15 million to rehabilitate the stadium.
“The citizens of Paterson voted to rehabilitated the stadium. You have to do that with incremental steps. The $1.4 million is one of those steps,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large.
Jackson pointed out the voters gave permission for repairs at the stadium and not for the ATP site or the proposed river walk.
“We have to get started somewhere,” said council vice president Maritza Davila. The stadium has been in disrepair for the past 20 years.
“If we don’t start some place, it will be another 20, 30, 40 years and Hinchliffe Stadium will fall further into disrepair and it will cost more money to repair. So we have to start now,” said Morris.