Washington Town Council members engaged in intense discussions at their recent meeting, raising concerns about the escalating costs for a new police department headquarters, a proposed Department of Public Works (DPW) building, and the future of the swim club property.
The most debated topic during the meeting was the cost of expanding the police department in the proposed new DPW building. Two related articles in the Pascack Press that discussed rising construction and material costs, project delays, and overall inflation were mentioned by the council. The council president pointed out, “Rivervale went up to bid for a new police headquarters, the bids came in around 16 million, just two years ago the estimates were about 12.5 million, a 3.5 million dollar difference.” The council noted that the cost estimates for their own police department expansion are already in today’s dollars, but the council still awaits the architect’s redesign of the police department’s existing space. Members of the council agreed that the expansion is necessary for the police department to operate efficiently but also expressed concern about the rising costs and finding temporary space for the police department during renovation.
Meanwhile, delays in breaking ground for the new DPW building became a hot topic, as confusion arose over a statement from the town administrator linking the progress of the DPW building to a final design decision for the police department. One council member stated, “I don’t want to hold up the DPW building any longer. I agree. Yeah, and I thought we did talk about that in the last meeting. We talked about that’s what we wanted to the architect, yeah, as well as you need to be done.”
Some council members voiced concern over the link between the projects, as they viewed them as separate issues. Meanwhile, the mayor and other council members expressed willingness to wait a couple of months for the architect to determine if the police department could be accommodated in its existing space before proceeding with the DPW building.
The council also discussed the need for a full survey of a property associated with the swim club. The mayor mentioned that Boswell recommended a full survey of the property, which would be sent to the rec Advisory Board for review. A council member expressed concerns about the process and alignment with the Advisory Board’s views. The mayor clarified that the Advisory Board would make a recommendation, but the final decision rests with the council as it controls the funding.
Another significant topic of discussion was the traffic congestion and pedestrian safety around Washington School. The council explored various proposals to alleviate traffic congestion and ensure pedestrian safety, including reversing the traffic flow pattern around the school and using volunteers to help with offloading children from cars. The possibility of adding sidewalks was also discussed, with some residents arguing against it, citing concerns over property values. Councilwoman Feeney noted that “there was consensus in general was the block is not unsafe, it’s overcrowded.”
Finally, the council also discussed various ongoing projects in the town, including the bocce ball court at Martine Clark Seniors Park and the dog park at Cherryfield. Both projects have been delayed due to the EPA’s new Inland flood protection rules, and Councilman Cassie expressed concern about the projects being on hold. Other topics of discussion included the future of an inactive restaurant, potential changes to the town’s employee health benefits plan, the installation of monitoring wells near the library along Woodfield Road, and traffic flow problems at the intersection of Washington and Boswell.