After months of speculation and contention surrounding the possible transfer of the $500,000 allocated to the Waterworks project to Saddle River, Freeholder Vice-Chairman John A. Felice recommends that the funds remain dedicated to the Waterworks project.
Felice, liaison to the Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, said in a statement, "My final recommendation will be to concur with the original allocation of $500,000 to the Water Works project via resolution to the Board of Chosen Freeholders.”
Felice had previously proposed it to a proposed parking lot in Saddle River.
This fall, the Board of Freeholders chose to reallocate that funding to reimburse the borough of Saddle River for the purchase of the Marker property near Rindlaub Park for a parking lot and street access to East Allendale Road.
The Hackensack Waterworks and adjoining Van Buskirk Island are owned by Bergen County following a 1990 sale by United Water.
The $500,000 Open Space Trust Funds is part of a matching grant from the state. The project already received a $750,000 historic preservation grant from the state to stabilize the property and is in line to get another .
Supporting his decision to re-allocate the funds to Saddle River, Felice said, "After the storms in September 2011 and seeing how the Waterworks flooded, I could not support additional taxpayer money to be used for this project."
The building's basements and underground cisterns flooded with water from the Hackensack River due to a lack of power to the buildings causing the sump pumps to be turned off.
Senator Gordon, along with representatives Connie Wagner and Timothy Eustace had argued in a March 20 letter to the Board of Freeholders that if the matching funds were diverted, Bergen County would risk losing the grants.
According to the letter, under DEP Guidelines Bergen County is responsible for maintaining the buildings at the Waterworks site. The letter stated, "Moving $500,000 from that project will not allow the county to meet its obligation to the state."
In response to Felice's statement, Gordon, Wagner and Eustace responded via letter that they were "delighted that Freeholder Vice-Chairman Felice has reconsidered his position with regard to overriding the decision of the Open Space Board."
The Board of Freeholders are meeting March 21, 8 p.m. at One Bergen County Plaza, Hackensack.