After months of private grumbling by residents about the upkeep of arcade and exercise machines in the Community Center's upstairs youth and fitness areas, a resident finally brought the issue to council's attention at Tuesday's public meeting.
"Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen [the rec center] deteriorate at an unbelievable rate," said Doug Blauschild, a 33-year resident who called the center one of the highlights of Fair Lawn. "Some of the equipment now hasn’t been repaired in six to eight weeks in the exercise room upstairs."
Blauschild praised the facility, which he said he's used regularly for about four years, but called its current condition "deplorable."
"I’ve spoken to the people when I go on Saturday and Sunday, they say that things are being repaired, and there’s been no repair," said Blauschild, adding that the televisions in the exercise room also haven't worked in at least two months.
Kyle DiVito, who regularly uses the free weights in the rec center's exercise room, said broken machines are a frequent topic of conversation among residents who use the facility. He said machines are usually out of order from a few days to a few weeks, but that it's been months since one of the room's two recumbent bicycles has worked.
Jetti Rachlin, who's used the exercise room for its treadmills and stationary bikes since the building opened, said the space often gets crowded and lines form for use of the equipment.
With only eight exercise machines to begin with — two bikes, three treadmills and three elliptical machines — and a couple usually in need of repair, Rachlin said the proposed plan to share the facility with Saddle Brook would only create a bigger mess.
"What’s the good of having [an exercise room] if everyone waits?" she said.
Residents have launched similar maintenance-related complaints about the rec center's arcade area, where anywhere from one-fifth to one-half of its 20 machines have been out of order during five separate Patch visits over a ten-month period.
Between the two areas, four arcade games -- two of which have been out of commission most of, if not all of this year -- an elliptical machine and a recumbent bicycle were not working during a visit this week.
Recreation supervisor Jim Graff, who is in charge of the facility, was unavailable for comment, but both borough manager Tom Metzler and community center council liaison John Cosgrove said a purchase order had been cut for the repair of the broken exercise equipment.
Metzler explained Tuesday that budget constraints had forced the borough to revise its exercise equipment maintenance policy and start bundling repairs at the center, resulting in a slow down of individual repairs.
"In the past, when a single unit broke down we would call for repair," he said. "Obviously the costs for doing that were greater than trying to bundle it all together."
Now, the department waits until multiple pieces of the same equipment type are broken before making a service call.
"It’s a decision on the part of the department head, but it’s a decision I support," Metzler said. "When we go through budget reviews, I ask department heads to do more with less. Everybody says the town’s got to run more efficiently. Well this is one of the things we’re trying to do to run more efficiently."
Along the same lines, the borough now maximizes its servicing of the arcade machines by scheduling repairs going into the fall and winter months, when the youth center is operating at its greatest capacity, Metzler said.
The community center non-profit's recent fundraising woes have also contributed to hiccoughs in equipment upkeep, said Cosgrove, the former chairman of the Community Center 501(c)3 Committee.
Cosgrove said that until this year, the 501(c)3 committee had paid for the center's upkeep, including $36,000 over three years to keep the arcade games running, among other things. Now the borough is paying for all of the center's maintenance because the 501(c)3 can't afford to any longer.
Cosgrove said he hopes money raised at upcoming fundraising events, including a $60 per person night of dinner and dancing with the Cameos scheduled for next Saturday, will begin to re-stock the community center 501(c)3's coffers.
If money ultimately does become available, Cosgrove said he'd like to replace some of the older arcade machines that are outdated and frequently break down with newer ones.
He said Cablevision's recent all-digital switchover, which requires customers to have a cable set top box for all televisions, is behind the exercise room's non-functioning TVs. The rec center will soon install boxes on each of the fitness room's eight televisions and they'll be up-and-running again before the end of the year, Cosgrove said.