Department offices have been housed in the building since 1982, when the restoration of the historic barn was funded by a group that included David F. Bolger.
The philanthropist, with his foundation, is once again offering to fund an upgrade to the building, which Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Nancy Bigos said is needed given a seven-day program schedule that has strained the facility in recent years.
“In talking to Mr. Bolger over the last couple of years, we have shared that the community has grown and our needs have grown,” Bigos said, describing the building as Bolger’s “vision.”
“There has now come a time and challenge for us where this facility that was given to us years ago is outdated,” she added.
The architectural plans presented to the council by Bolger Foundation CEO Tom Wells call for a small two-story addition, featuring added restrooms on the first floor and a new conference room and kitchenette on the second floor, he said.
The foundation is proposing to pick up the entirety of the construction costs, estimated at $250,000-300,000, while the village would be responsible for the more minimal costs of outside work on the site, such as landscaping adjustments. Wells said that construction, if approved by the council, would take about four to six months.
Bolger, who has a long history of philanthropy in Ridgewood, vowed in 2010 to never donate to the village again, citing a “gift ordinance” that prohibited those with applications pending before a municipal body or agency from making a donation within 90 days of final action on their request.
A company owned by the Bolger family, Two-Forty Associates, currently has business pending before the planning board, but the rules have since changed. Later in 2010, the council repealed the 90-day provision of the ordinance, allowing the village manager and council to review and accept gifts on a case-by-case basis.
Wells told the council Wednesday night that the Bolger Foundation and Two-Forty Associates are separate entities – though he admitted that there are "interconnections" – and that the foundation would not expect any added influence on the planning board.
“The generosity that the Bolger Founation would like to utilize in making this gift, consistent with gifts that it’s made in the past back as far as 30 years, is done without any strings attached,” Wells said. “We do not expect and have never received any preferential treatment before any boards.”
Though the council no longer has any requirement to reject gifts when the donor has pending business before the village, it has exercised discretion. Earlier this year, it declined a gift from Valley Hospital that came shortly after it reintroduced its proposed expansion before the zoning board, to avoid the appearance of influence.
Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli, who sits on the planning board, expressed faith that it could rule impartially on Bolger’s application, and would not be influenced by funding for a municipal project.“I have every confidence in the people on that board’s ability to say no to anybody and everybody,” he said. “I don’t believe this village is for sale. So if you think you can make a gift and buy an approval you’re belittling the boards.”