The town council approved nearly $3 million in capital projects and equipment, including $1.7 million in new borrowing and nearly $1 million for improvements of athletic facilities at the high school at its Dec. 18 meeting.
The administration withdrew a proposed contract to a company under investigation for trying to evade state law on public contracts and political contributions. The mayor said in an e-mail to the council that the town engineer was unable to make the council meeting to discuss the contract.
The deputy town attorney also said the administration planned to soon send a default notice to Prism, the designated redeveloper of the Edison site downtown, for failure to provide information requested in an Oct. 26 letter. This would be the third notice of default to Prism, which addressed the two previous default notices by paying about $300,000 in delinquent property taxes and escrow funds for the town’s redevelopment expenses.
The meeting agenda and related material is here http://bit.ly/Ttq8PP.
The council approved two bond ordinances on second and final reading. The first (Ordinance 2366-12) reallocates $1,606,799 in previous borrowing for:
- $400,000 to renovate the artificial turf soccer field at the high school
- $200,000 to light the football/track & field facility at the high school
- $350,000 for a new concession stand at the high school
- $200,000 for public works vehicles/equipment
- $200,000 for computers and software
- $56,779 for “improvements to outdoor facilities”
- $200,000 for improvements to the municipal building
The vote was 4-1 and I cast the lone no vote. This ordinance reflects previous debt issuance, so it doesn’t require adding to our debt level.
The second ordinance (2367-12) modifies existing authorizations to borrow $1,717,024.44 for:
- $873,824 for road resurfacing for unspecified streets
- $100,000 for Nicholas Avenue improvements
- $600,000 for Mountain Drive (erroneously identified as Mountain Avenue) improvements
- $143,201 for the balance for “outdoor facilities” from the other ordinance
The vote was 5-0. The town has slightly less than $67 million in outstanding debt and is spending more than $5 million in debt service in 2012.
Other items of potential interest approved included:
- The 2013 budget for the township’s Special Improvement District, which is managed by the Downtown West Orange Alliance. The budget is $240,000.
- Prioritization of projects for the application to the county for Community Development Block Grants, slightly modified to raise the priority of one application.
- 12-month contracts for snow plowing and hauling to three companies that had low bids for various services.
- One-year extension of a contract for janitorial services to Excellent Building Services for $57,540 for various town buildings.
- Three contracts for tree services to Kevin Downs Tree Service and Dujet Tree Experts.
- The 2011 audit of the town’s finances by the auditor and the correction plan.
At public comment:
- Several residents spoke in favor or opposition to the athletics projects at the high school.
- A resident spoke in favor of the Bethany Center for Champions, a youth program that applied for a Community Block Development Grant.
- A resident asked questions about administration and council president dealings with Prism which went largely unanswered.
- Three residents criticized the town’s borrowing for capital projects on school property, saying this sidestepped the requirement that school districts get voter approval for borrowing. The town said setting up “shared services” agreements under state law permits this process.
- A resident asked the town to buy his property because of alleged mistakes by the town planner and Zoning Board.
- A resident (disclosure: my wife, Clare) asked why the town did not participate in a federal/county grant providing workers to clean up storm debris. The mayor said the offer came too late and involved unwanted paperwork. She also asked that the town devote more resources to tree maintenance, given the amount of storm damage.
Video of the council meeting will be up on the town website and www.WestOrangeGrassroots.org in the next few days.
Joe Krakoviak is a West Orange Township Councilman, since 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com. A former financial journalist, in his spare time he’s a business communications consultant.