The community building at Evans Park at Millville has yet to open like the rest of the park complex because of restrictions posed by state officials on indoor gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Millville Town Council took steps at its June 22 meeting toward opening the building for public use and set up rules for the rental of all the park facilities. The council approved a list of rules for the use of the facilities and the application groups must fill out in order to rent them.
In addition, the council approved the creation of a park commission, which will make recommendations to the council regarding the park.
The vote to establish the three-person commission was divided, 3-2, with Council Secretary Robert Wisgirda and Council Member Steve Maneri dissenting.
Mayor Ronald Belinko said in beginning the discussion for the commission’s formation that he felt now that the outdoor parts of the park have been open for a few months, it had become evident that its management could use some additional oversight.
“We’re kidding ourselves,” Belinko said, to not have the park’s needs addressed by a town commission. He said he was concerned that town Building Official Eric Evans is already spending too much time dealing with issues at the park. Millville is currently experiencing a building boom, and Evans should be spending his time focusing on new-construction inspections, Belinko said.
Belinko also said the establishment of the Town’s new parks department and hiring of a park maintenance person follows the Town’s comprehensive plan.
Council Treasurer Barbara Ryer said she agreed that the commission is necessary to prevent the town staff from being overburdened with park-related issues.
“The staff is being pulled in 100 different directions,” Deputy Mayor Sharon Brienza said, adding that they should be able to “concentrate on the jobs they were hired for.” Brienza suggested the three members have “staggered” terms to ensure some continuity going forward, with two members serving three-year terms to start and one serving a two-year term.
Maneri said the Town already has “more than enough people that can take care of this.” Wisgirda said Millville “is not Central Park,” adding that he believes the town staff and the council are both “very capable,” calling the addition of the commission unnecessary “bureaucracy.”
Belinko said at the beginning of the discussion that the commission would meet quarterly “if we need it.” Applications will be taken for potential members, who will receive a small compensation for attending the meetings, although there was some discussion as to whether previous moves to compensate other boards would cover the new one.
The council also discussed at great length the best timing for turning off lights on the park’s pickleball courts. Current park rules call for the park to be open from dawn to dusk, but there has been some concern that if pickleball tournaments, for example, run late, participants could be left in the dark.
“If we know there’s a tournament, we can set up the lights to turn off at 9,” Town Manager Deborah Botchie said. “I just don’t want someone to get injured if it’s pitch black.”
Brienza expressed concern that the lights would be a nuisance for residents in the new Parkside development adjacent to the park, and Wisgirda said he worried that leaving lights on past dark would “attract a clientele you don’t want there.”
Concerning the park’s community hall, the council voted to approve rental rates that give discounts for Millville residents. Residents, Wisgirda said, have “skin in the game” as far as being town taxpayers and therefore already contributing to the upkeep of the park. Rental of the community hall comes with a $50-per-hour rate for residents and $100-per-hour rate for others. There is a two-hour minimum on rental of the hall, which can hold 285 people for standing events, or 170 people seated at tables.
Pickleball tournament organizers would pay $500 per day for the use of the park.
Deposits of $50 per day for outside park facilities and $100 per day for indoor spaces will be required, and they will only be refunded if the Town does not have to clean up the area after the event.