West Orange Town Council Addresses "Prism-gate"
Public asks council for answers about the struggling developer
The council echoed the frustration of the public at not getting timely answers to questions about the developer’s financial position.
“The public is really concerned, as is the council,” said Councilman Jerry Guarino. "(They are wondering) is (the redevelopment project) going to be viable? Is it going to happen and is the township exposed? The township is not exposed to any liability; we’re doing our job… it gets emotional.
“The township isn’t giving (Prism) any money unless they maintain their requirements,” he said. “But the taxpayers aren’t exposed to any loss.”
Prism Capital Partners previously owed more than $300,000 in delinquent taxes to the township and one of their properties was foreclosed upon. The developer has invested around $60 million into the Edison Battery property. Prism has, however, been chronically slow to respond to the township administration’s requests for updates on their finances.
According to West Orange administrators, before Prism can put shovel to soil, their project still has to be approved by the state’s historic preservation commission, a process that is underway.
With the backdrop of federal tax hikes on middle income households, Council President Victor Cirilo said he understands the public’s concerns, and said they will be addressed in further detail at upcoming budget hearings. “We haven’t raised taxes in three years and we’ve lowered the amount spent to 2008 levels, so right now our budget is around $73 million dollars,” he said. “We’re doing pretty decent. (But in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy) it’s going to be tough to do again this year.”
After public comments, the council approved the consent agenda, which included reimbursements totaling $185,081 to residents who overpaid on their property taxes last year, the temporary 2013 budget (attached to this article as a PDF) and transfers of $386,128 among accounts, among others. West Orange reports unspent 2012 appropriations of $477,008.