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Preview of January 8 Town Council Meeting

$185,081 in property tax appeal judgments, stand-by generator rules, Prism financial information headline agenda for January 8, 2013, town council meeting

Reimbursement of $185,081 in property tax appeal judgments headlines the agenda for the January 8, 2013, town council meeting.

The agenda also includes the traditional New Year resolutions setting a temporary 2013 budget, cancelling 2012 unspent budget appropriations and transferring funds among budget accounts. The town had unspent appropriations of $477,008.

The administration also asks council approval for $386,128 in transfers among accounts, including $46,519 from waste management operating expenses (distributed to various other accounts) and $211,096 from public works salaries and wages (to various accounts). Major recipients of the transfers were $210,893 for prescription insurance claims and $15,400 for the jitney bus service. The administration also asks to continue membership in the joint municipal insurance fund and to authorize the annual cash-management plan, which invests and safeguards the town’s funds until needed.

The council is also asked to review a proposed six-month extension of a contract for planning services while the Town Planner is on medical leave. These fees are primarily paid from escrow accounts deposited by applicants for planning and zoning matters. In a related resolution, the administration is asking to use this vendor – Phillips, Preiss, Grygiel, LLC -- to help with a project to develop standards and/or zoning ordinances for stand-by generators for condominium and multi-family communities. This work would be paid by township funds not to exceed $2,500.

The resolution authorizing rebate of property tax payments is the latest in a long series of reductions in the township’s revenue and tax base from appeals to the assessed value of property relative to the market rate, as required by law. The resolution states that the court judgments are for the year 2011, so I’ve asked for clarification on whether these are for 2012. In addition to the $185,000 payout, the judgments reduce the township’s tax base by $5.3 million, meaning it will produce less revenue going forward at a constant tax rate. The judgments included 13 reductions in assessed value of more than $100,000 from among the 114 judgments, including one of $619,400. All the cases appeared to be for residential properties, although they might include a handful of small commercial properties.

The agenda does not include a resolution the administration withdrew from the December 18 agenda that proposed to award a $316,270 contract, apparently without competition, to Birdsall Services Group. The company is under state investigation for trying to evade laws on political contributions for vendors that get public contracts http://bit.ly/TXtEkn.

The council meeting is also likely to include discussion of the recent response by Prism Capital Partners, the designated downtown redeveloper, to a demand letter from the town requesting information to help judge its financial ability to proceed with construction for the Edison Battery Factory site. Council members received the filing, estimated at 600 pages, late Friday.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary Englert January 08, 2013 at 01:28 AM
wohopeful: It would certainly help civil discourse if you had at least some of your facts straight and you most certainly don't. First, Prism was only selected as the developer at the end of 2006 and immediately begain acquiring the properties in the redevelopment zone. It then proceeded with the necessary EPA/DEP site remediation and pre-fabrication of the parking garage, which is completed and in storage in Pennsylvania. The project stalled in the fall of 2008 with the worldwide financial collapse, when Bank of America tottering on insolvency) pulled it financial commitment. Second, Prism has paid all their property tax obligations (albeit, some late but, with the requisite penalties and fees paid when they did) and the Township has suffered no loss as a result. Third, Prism has fully funded all the Township's redevelopment expenses but, it is incumbent upon the Township to present a bill for those services and the requisite back-up documentation. The Planning Director has been out on an extended medical leave and, as a result, Prism did not receive those bills and the escrow account was overdrawn. Once the bills were received, Prism paid them. Again, Prism has done yeoman's work by already investing +/-$60 Million, carrying this project for six years with minimal income (the lease on the CVS store is about it), and paying the Township +/- $6 Million in taxes and fees. If that spells disaster, I fail to see where.
wohopeful January 08, 2013 at 01:55 PM
@Mr. Englert, The facts as stated in my previous post, which you took issue with are correct and have almost all been confirmed in your response: Has Prism gotten this project off the ground since 2006, No you confirmed that “Prism was only selected as the developer at the end of 2006” and we can clearly see from the site that no progress has been made, Prism continues to tell the council one thing and the planning board another, and no one has seen evidence of a “pre-fabricated parking garage” Has Prism been habitually late in making property tax payments, Yes, you confirmed that “albeit, some late but, with the requisite penalties and fees paid when they did”; Has Prism maintained the contractual funding in the escrow accounts, No. And once again they were late in doing so, raising questions about their fiscal solvency. Is Prism in litigation with the mortgage lender of the Barton Press site, yes, although they have not fully disclosed why they haven’t paid the mortgage in many months and have ignored the letters of inquiry by the town. Has Prism invested +/- $60 mio in this project? No evidence that they have invested anywhere near that amount. Perhaps 3 million in property taxes over 6 yrs and even if you estimate a very generous 3 million in expenses to date,a far cry from the $60 mio you lay claim to. I suggest that you do some fact checking yourself Mr. Englert before you post more of your outrageous tales and massive untruths proclaiming it as fact.
Gary Englert January 08, 2013 at 06:43 PM
wohopeful: Your statement that "Prism has not been able to get this project off the ground since at least 2006 when their then financing evaporated," is factually an chronologically incorrect as not only did it it move diligently and swiftly to move forward after having been selected a redeveloper, it did so until a piece of its financing package (Bank of America's commitment) was withdrawn in the midst of the financial meltdown of 2008. All in (between acquisition of the subject properties, DEP/EPA site remediation, pre-fabrication of the parkng garage and engineering/design fees, etc.), Prism's investment in the project IS +/- $60 Million. While you may not have seen it as it has not be erected on site, the parking structure has been built and is in storage in Pennsylvania. If not with a guided tour, I'm sure Mr. Diaz would be happy to provide an address where you might see it with your own eyes. Again, insofar as the redevelopment escrow account expenditures and reserve are concerned, it is incumbent upon the Township to present Prism with a bill for same, which simply wasn't done in a timely fashion do to the illness of the Planning Director who has the responsibility for doing so. Once the bills were received, they were paid and the escrow account refunded. A review of public records indicates the annual taxes paid on the properties within the redevelopment zone (for 5+ years), plus the Township's expense paid, easily approach $6 Million. .
wohopeful January 08, 2013 at 11:11 PM
@Mr. Englert, Unfortunately your tall tales are in direct conflict with documentation provided to the township from Prism's legal team. The so called "Pre-Fabricated parking garage" yopu speak of is nothing more than some concrete panels according to Prism's own admission. Prism was granted the redevelopment contract in 2006 and to date nothing substantial has occurred and again by Prism's own admission they still do not have the financing necessary to move the project forward. Prism hasn't carried any project for six years because there is no project other than the stonewalling and flipflopping going on at Prism in order to get access to the millions in WO taxpayer obligated bonds. I would suggest that you do a better job at checking your facts and reviewig the materials avaialbel before you try to twist a tale that suits you and is not fact based on the evidence available.
Gary Englert January 09, 2013 at 09:01 PM
wohopeful: My "facts" need no checking and the "panels" reference in Prism's cover letter are, indeed, those pre-fabricated in preparation for construction of the parking garage and constitute the majority of its structure. Selected as the developer in late 2006, Prism immediately and successfully acquired all the relevant properties...and completed the necessary DEP/EPA site remediation of the battery factory property...all of which constittues an investment of +/- $60 Million. While the result may not yet be visually pleasing...as it IS a work in progress...and each and everything Prism has accomplished is a cog integral to moving the project to completion. Ergo, your cntention that my assessment is some "tall tale" is absolutely without basis in fact. What you and the rest of your ill-informed ilk have yet to detail is any reasonable alternative to staying the course and getting this thing done. While neither you, nor anyone else, has identified so white knight waiting in the wings with the requisite $250 Million to bring downtown development to fruition, Prism is not walking away from its considerable investment and continues to pay all its property tax obligations and fees; no small accomplishment given the lack of income being produced. If you've got a better idea, please enlighten us as just what it is?

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