The Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex project is the largest and most expensive local public project we will likely witness as Berkeley Heights residents. It is a vast responsibility. Therefore, it was concerning to learn that the Township Council and Mayor placed an ordinance on the agenda June 26 for an additional $4 million for the municipal complex without much regard to time. We residents only learned about the vote for additional funds the day before the Council meeting. The public was not given time to digest this new information before it was added to the Council’s agenda.
Members of the governing body also noted at the June 26th Council meeting that the Developer’s Agreement will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting on July 10. We are also concerned the proposal from the selected developer has not yet been made available for public evaluation. Having only a few days to become educated on the need for four million additional dollars – without having access to the necessary documentation – is unreasonable, and certainly the public’s ability to review the Developer’s Agreement in advance should be sound logic. Residents deserve an opportunity to see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent and not having time to do so violates the spirit of transparency.
Transparency does not mean “follow the letter of the law.” It means bringing government to the people. Open communication with the residents in this community means ensuring they have all necessary information in a timely fashion so that they may ask informed questions; that information also should be disseminated via various methods to try to reach as many people as possible. Engage us rather than closing us out. Our collective unique backgrounds may produce valuable input.
So, we applaud Councilwoman Susan Poage’s decision on June 26 to vote against the introduction of the ordinance. More conversation between the residents, Town Council and the Mayor is needed. With this large project looming, we need to address concerns about funds being available beyond the bond payment on the municipal complex but also our roads, parks, fields and general infrastructure. Moreover, we need open conversations to ensure we have done everything possible to value engineer this project.
We encourage residents to come out to the July 10th Council meeting and ask questions about the largest investment we will all collectively make in our community’s future.
Angie Devanney , Candidate for Mayor
Stephen Yellin, Council Candidate
Alvaro Medeiros, Council Candidate