Recreation center delayed until fall Environmental cleanup puts off opening

Environmental remediation work at the new Secaucus Recreation Center has caused a delay in the opening of the facility, according to Mayor Dennis Elwell’s administration.

The facility on Koelle Boulevard was slated to open by the end of this spring. It is now expected to open this fall.

“We discovered the presence of meadowmat in our original environmental assessments at the rec center site,” said Town Administrator David Drumeler.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), “meadowmat” is “a layer of marsh deposits consisting of dark brown peat and gray to brown organic silt.” This layer of decaying vegetation can trap harmful substances or gases and prevent them from dissipating.

Drumeler said that engineers working on the facility had to install a gas management system that will allow underground vapors to be released through corrugated pipes that run through a blower and are ultimately released through a flagpole.

The installation of this gas management system, and the day-to-day operating expenses incurred at the building site due to the delay, have added $500,000 to the facility’s $10 million-plus pricetag, according to Drumeler.

“Obviously, when you have a delay you have certain expenses that will increase if you have to extend the project,” Drumeler stated. “There would be fixed costs at your work site, such as construction trailers, temporary electricity, the construction manager, the architects who are there longer than planned.”

In April, for example, the Town Council extended the professional service contract to RSC Architects, the architectural firm working on the recreation center. The firm received an additional $26,960 at the council’s April 22 meeting.

The gas management system, he added, also includes an indoor monitoring system similar a carbon monoxide detector that will sound if there are any gas leaks inside the recreation center.

$2 million for water containment

The meadowmat mitigation work at the site wasn’t the only environmental remediation that has lead to the delay in the center’s opening. The New Jersey DEP also made Secaucus install a water containment system.

“For whatever reason, the DEP made us put this water containment system in place. The whole containment system ended up being $2 million,” said Drumeler. “The water containment system forced us to have to dig up a lot of dirt, and that dirt had to be safely discarded. We couldn’t just dump it somewhere. It had to be disposed of properly. So, again, there are expenses related to that as well.”

Few numbers released

Although Drumeler and Mayor Elwell recently briefed the Town Council on building and anticipated operating expenses associated with the recreation center, few numbers have been released publicly.

The center, located across the street from the Secaucus Swimming Center, is being built with funds from a number of sources. A $5 million impact fee will be paid to the town over time by Transit Village developer Fraternity Meadows LLC, to offset the burden on town services caused by the new residents of the future development.

The town is also drawing from a $10 million bond and from revenue from a billboard located on Secaucus property along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Although critics of the recreation center have long questioned whether taxpayers will have to finance or support the project, Mayor Elwell has said the facility will be largely maintained by those who use it.

“We’re trying to make it so that the recreation center is supported by the people who actually use it,” Elwell said in April.

There will be a nominal membership fee to join, which Elwell has said will be cheaper than typical health club and gym memberships.

The athletic departments of the local public schools will also use the recreation center, in addition to residents. Basketball, volleyball, and swim teams are all expected to hold practices and competitions there in the coming years.

Currently there is no plan to charge the Secaucus School district for the use of the recreation center, although Mayor Elwell has said that is an option the town may explore in the future.


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