Kearny dog park advocates will have to wait a bit longer to see their long-awaited dream fulfilled.
Mayor Alberto Santos said that the state – which monitors significant spending projects by the town as a condition of extending transitional aid – has put the kibosh on Kearny putting up a local match for the project.
Santos said the state apparently views the project as a luxury Kearny cannot afford, “even though it would mean only pennies on the tax rate.”
The town has been awarded a $175,000 grant for the dog park venture by the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund and has tentatively set aside $95,000 as a local match to optimize the project.
News of the state’s “veto” came last Tuesday as the mayor and Town Council had hoped to adopt a bond ordinance to finance both the dog park and improvements to playgrounds on Hickory St. and at Washington School.
Now only the playgrounds will be included in the bond with authorization for up to $700,000 in spending for work on the play areas. A public hearing on the revised ordinance is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 13 in the council chambers.
Santos and Council President Carol Jean Doyle, who has been pressing for the dog park, said that they would ask CFO Shuaib Firozvi to see if some unused grant funds could be cobbled together to apply to the project.
“I thought we were going to have an October ribbon-cutting,” said Doyle, “so I’m disappointed but we know we are still going forward with this project.”
Doyle said she had no problem with the state prioritizing “children over dogs” by sanctioning the playground upgrades over the dog park. “I understand that,” she said. “We’ll just wait a little longer. Will we have to cut back on the scale of the dog park [to minimize the cost]? Possibly if that’s the issue.”
Under the current design, there would be two sections of the dog park, one reserved for dogs 35 pounds or lighter and the other, for heavier canines.
– Ron Leir