In a recent meeting of the Bogota Borough Council, debates over a new recreation center came to the forefront. The discussions revealed changes to the original plans, eliciting concerns about budget constraints, parking availability, design alterations, and political motivations.
The revised plans for the Rec Center, which is to be situated near Olson Park, show a reduction in size from an initial 16,000 square feet to 6,800 square feet. The parking capacity has also been downsized from 64 to 16 spaces. Some sections of the center, including restrooms, offices, and concessions, will be located in an area designated as “Green Acres” under New Jersey regulations.
With a project budget set around $8 million, the council members discussed the possibility of increasing funds to accommodate additional parking and amenities, including solar panels for energy efficiency.
At the meeting, one attendee strongly criticized the revised plans for the Rec Center, citing differences in size and parking capacity compared to the original design. The speaker pointed to Council Member Mary Ellen Murphy, who is now running for Mayor, as responsible for these changes. The attendee claimed Murphy had initially opposed the Center but was now advocating for it and accused her of changing her stance for political reasons.
Murphy responded by clarifying that she had only voted against the bond for the Center once. She also countered statements that the Rec Center would be free, arguing that if it were truly free, a bond would not have been necessary.
Council members also voiced skepticism about the Rec Center’s revised plans, questioning the value of the borough’s investment. They also expressed concerns about potential hidden costs, such as the expense of installing a gas line and pumps.
Former Councilman Jorge Nunez, who participated by phone, urged the council to “stay focused on moving things forward responsibly” and ignore criticisms from the “peanut gallery” in the audience, remarks that drew criticism from attendees.
Meanwhile, public attendees at the meeting criticized the behavior of the council members, calling for a greater sense of decorum. One resident described the council’s behavior as “embarrassing,” referring to instances of a Councilman Mitchell using his phone and others making faces and shouting.
Questions were also raised about the council allegedly not allowing the public to ask questions about the Rec Center during the meeting.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included an agreement with Enterprise about vehicle leases and concerns about unauthorized actions by an administrator, Mr. Heinz, who had signed a contract without prior approval from the council.