Donohue: Township wants to hear from public on rec site

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RIO GRANDE – A planned recreation complex in Rio Grande won’t just be for soccer players, indicated Committeeman Tim Donohue.

Residents will have a say of what else goes in at Robert “Ockie” Wisting Recreational Complex, he said. Many residents still use the site’s former name: Fort Apache. It is the site for the Cole Brothers Circus this week, including a show planned tonight (Thursday, Aug. 23.).

“I think it’s important that we offer as they’re developing their part of it that we can develop the other section for alternate uses,” he said at Monday’s Township Committee work session.

Township officials and Cape Express Soccer Club are working on an agreement for the organization to develop and use athletic fields at the Fulling Mill Road site in Rio Grande. Donohue said details are being worked out.

 “I think it’s going well,” said Mike Granigan, president of Cape Express Soccer Club when contacted Tuesday afternoon.

The agreement being negotiated with the township would be for 20 years, he said. Cape Express would pay for developing five athletic fields, he said, taking “a fraction” of the complex’s space.  He did not say how much developing the fields would cost the club.

Middle Township purchased the approximately 83-acres property in 2002 using loans and grants, according to township information. The township has $229,500 of $1.21 million left for improvements to the site, according to township officials.

The money could be used for playground, a parking building with bathroom facilities, pavilion with picnic tables, hiking trails and a fishing area near the pond, according to information distributed at the Middle Township Committee work session.

“There are a lot of great ideas that are floating out there,” township business administrator Mark Mallett said. “They just need to be further hashed out on what we really want to have done.”

The recreational complex is expected to be on the agenda when the Township Committee meets at the Rio Grande firehall Monday, Sept. 17. A work session is planned for 4 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6 p.m. at 1120 Route 47 South.

“Obviously, to a layperson like myself or somebody else, if you drive by there and you say, ‘Where’s that $2 million?’ We know it’s in there now. We know the infrastructure is all there, and the work that wasn’t done wasn’t paid for.”

At a Middle Township Taxpayer’s Association meeting in Rio Grande earlier this year, people questioned where the money went.

On Monday’s Township Committee work session, a packet from the township detailed the finances. 

Several years ago, Township Committee adopted two ordinances totaling $1.21 million for improvements and other work to the planned recreational complex. Most of the money, $875,886, has been paid to Albrecht and Heun and CMX Inc., formerly Schoor DePalma, the engineering consultant.

Albrecht and Heun completed earthwork and grading, $286,000; asphalt, curbs, sidewalks and other work, $131,801; drainage improvements, $88,756; topsoil, fertilizing and seeding, $66,045; sewer connection, $65,876; water connection, $32,230; and fence, $15,000, according to information from the township. The township paid the company $685,708.

CMX Inc., the engineering consultant, had worked with the township on site plans and design work for athletic fields, irrigation, drainage, utilities, park building, road access and parking area at the site. That firm had been paid $190,179, according to township information.

Most recently, township’s engineer, Remington, Vernick & Walberg, received $1,000 for looking over the site, and township’s solicitor Marcus Karavan was paid $81 for legal services.

Mayor Dan Lockwood said the Robert “Ockie” Wisting Recreational Complex will be part of the township’s open space and recreation plan. That plan would look at expanding recreational opportunities and preserving open space in the township.

“It [the site] will definitely be one of the larger pieces of that study, I would think…” Lockwood said.


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