Verona residents use the Caldwell Community Center for indoor recreation. Verona High School’s swim team uses the Caldwell site for training and competition. The Caldwell Community Center has been closed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and there have been rumors in Verona over the past few days that it was in danger of closing permanently. Caldwell Mayor John Kelley and Council President Christine Schmidt addressed those rumors in a statement today:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor and Council have been working tirelessly to assure the health and well-being of residents. Many decisions are made easier when directives come from the state and county level. We’ve all heard again and again about the importance of social distance, hand-washing and staying home unless for absolute necessities. These measures are extremely important to continue.
We, the Mayor and Council are also responsible for the well-being of our staff. Borough Hall has been closed to the public for the last few weeks as our staff tag-team in order to maintain safe distances while performing their essential duties. All this is done in the interest of our taxpayers because we need to be there for you while keeping Borough employees safe.
The Community Center has a very unique situation as it is a membership only operation. Over the past year and a half, we have been working hard with Rosemarie Sutherlin and Shannon Cornine to make it self-sustaining and remove the burden of this facility from the taxpayers. Progress was being made, and then COVID-19 struck. Since its closure on March 13th, it is becoming ever more apparent that an opening in the near future is unlikely. At this time we are hoping to re-open on January 1, 2021.
As with many of the difficult health decisions the Mayor and Council are required to make, we are hoping for guidance from state and county officials. Given the nature of CCC business, it would require a relaxation of social distancing, which is likely going to require a major research breakthrough. We are all hoping for that.
We will use this time to reevaluate the model of the CCC. There are major capital expenses that are required: pool heater, roof, flashing on the walls, security doors, and locker rooms. While our costs have been going up, teams have asked to pay less for use of the facility and our membership is paying a fair market rate. Unfortunately, the shortfall should not be at Caldwell taxpayers’ expense, especially at a time when our residents are struggling financially.
It is extremely important that the members of the CCC, but more importantly the taxpayers of Caldwell, understand that the CCC losses and deficits should not be funded by the taxpayers. The CCC is a member driven revenue model. Taxpayers who do not join the CCC should not be forced to have their tax dollars subsidize any deficits. This is the conundrum with which we are faced.
We hope, as you all do, that this terrible pandemic will soon be over so we can all go back to our lives. Everything will be different. Yet, we have no idea what our new lives will be. We hope, as you do, that we can find a way to have a new and improved Caldwell Community Center fully funded by a vibrant, dedicated membership. Whether or not that can become a reality is something that we cannot answer at this point.
There is so much uncertainty now. The greatest priority is that we beat this health crisis. There will be more detailed information regarding memberships and programs in the coming weeks.