New Jersey’s Green Acres program is looking into the Margate Little League’s lease with the city to determine if it failed to meet requirements for a Green Acres-funded property.
Margate Public Works Commissioner Brenda Taube said Solicitor Scott Abbott and Administrator Rich Deaney met with Margate Little League representatives Friday to discuss the situation, which involved the construction of a batting cage building on the Jerome Avenue recreation field.
According to the minutes of a March meeting with state Department of Environmental Protection and Green Acres representative Jessica Patter-son, Patterson said that while the program has approved batting cages on Green Acres property before, the Jerome Avenue facility was not properly approved. Patterson said the proper action would have been for the city to hold a public meeting and request a “change of use,” the minutes state.
The league’s 50-year lease with the city should also have been approved by Green Acres, Patterson said according to the minutes.
“The state wants us to modify the lease or do a new lease,” Abbott said. “They want some control or say about how the league operates the batting cage.”
Abbott said that there has been a “misperception” about the batting cage. He said Green Acres money was not used to construct the cage — the Little League took out its own loan, in addition to fundraising and fees from users that help to pay back some of the costs of about $200,000 — and that its construction and the agreement with the city predated any separate agreement with Green Acres for funding.
“My experience with Green Acres has been good, and I don’t think there’s any real issue here,” Abbott said. “And I don’t think Green Acres wants to fight the Little League. There was absolutely no wrongdoing by members of the Little League ... and no hint of any impropriety. They raised their own money, and Green Acres money didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Taube said that “in my opinion, I don’t think there was proper oversight. ... I don’t think it should be brushed under the table. Government is about being open and transparent.”
Concerned Citizens of Margate member Anne Pancoast, whose group also met with Patterson, said she did not want to comment on the issue until her group discussed it further over the weekend.
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