Residents eagerly awaiting the return of Fair Lawn's modular skatepark will have to wait a while longer.
After backing a multi-phase plan to expedite the transformation of Walsh Pool into a skate park for much of the past year, council abruptly changed course Tuesday and reallocated -- with the county's permission -- all of its skate park grant funding to the construction of a barrier-free playground at Berdan Grove.
"Berdan has been established as the perfect place [for the ADA playground]," said councilwoman Lisa Swain, who supported the $80,000 fund transfer. "That playground is overdue for a total makeover and we need to think about our residents with special needs, they need a place to go."
The reprioritization of funds comes less than a month after Fair Lawn All-Sports presented council its long-term vision to expand the Dobrow Sports Complex into the site of the former Walsh Pool.
Rather than move forward with the skate park at this time, council will wait until All-Sports firms up its plans for the Walsh Pool site before revisiting any discussion of the skate park relocation.
"We have some breathing room on the skate park, particularly since All-Sports is going to come up with something more detailed at our request," Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski said. "The ADA is a commitment we made and I think we should honor that first."
Having identified the barrier-free playground as its focus, council must now work with the ADA Committee to finalize design of the project and begin construction per the county's request.
"The county said that they would be receptive to moving the [grant] money to the ADA, but they want assurances that it will have a substantial impact on them actually seeing a project here," borough manager Tom Metzler said.
With initial cost estimates for the playground coming in at around a half-million dollars, the borough will have to construct the playground in steps since the $130,000 ($80,00 from the county; $50,000 matched by the borough) it has available won't cover the entire cost.
"The [ADA Committee] can look at the whole plan and break it down into pieces and decide, 'OK, for this amount of money, what can we start with?'" Swain said. "So at least there will be something on the ground."
In addition to grant funding, the ADA Committee hopes to drum up donations for the playground from local businesses and non-profit organizations, commitee co-chair Marianne Pettineo said.
While the skate park is now on hold indefinitely in favor of the playground project, council members stressed that they were not abandoning the skate park and would not renege on their commitment to the Fair Lawn fifth and sixth graders who had requested its construction.
"It's something that we've been talking about for a number of years and we bought the equipment," Deputy Mayor Jeanne Baratta said. "I'm not in favor of just scrapping that."
The borough opened the Warren Point Annex Skate Park at a converted tennis court on 30th Street and Pellack Drive in June 2011, but the set up lasted less than a month before being disassembled as a result of resident complaints.
The disassembled skate park equipment has remained in storage for the last 20 months.