Chatham Township Commits $1.25 Million to Road Improvement; Passes 1/2 Cent Open Space Tax

John Ruschke, Chatham Township engineer, prioritized road improvements in his report to the committee on Thursday Credits: TAP Chatham
Kevin Sullivan asserted that: "At the end of the day, the money comes out of the same pot." Credits: TAP Chatham
Committee member advocated for a 1 cent Open Space Tax to fund the down payment of an open space purchase Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham Township Committee agreed to spend $1.25 million on road improvements in 2017 after hearing a report on township roads by John Ruschke, township engineer, on Thursday night at the regular meeting of the committee.

The Chatham Township Committee also voted, 4-1, to reduce the Open Space Tax to half a cent, which it was last year. By referendum, the Open Space Tax is set at 2 cents, with the option for the committee to reduce it every year by a vote.

It was the third straight meeting in which the committee discussed its options on the Open Space Tax.

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Committee member Mike Kelly, the lone dissenting vote, pushed for a reduction to a 1 cent tax to cover the down payment for a potential open space purchase.

"How do we find the money for a five percent down payment?," Kelly asked. 

Thomas Ciccarone, township administrator, sided with the approach offered by Kelly and warned the committee against a dwindling surplus.

Thomas Ciccarone, township administrator, talks about a hole in the budget that needs to be fixed

"If you compare our surplus to surrounding towns, ours is a rather healthy surplus," Committee member Kevin Sullivan said. "At the end of the day, it all comes out of the same pot of money. The committee is showing fiscal discipline by not collecting money for an unspecified purpose."

After hearing the review from Ruschke on township roads, the committee decided to move on the top three prioritized areas identified, which included the Sunset Neighborhood, the Dale Drive Neighborhood and the Van Houton Neighborhood. All part of a total $2.5 million project.

Because the township can receive a greatly reduced price by going through the Morris County Co-op, it is more economical for the township to tackle a large portion of the plan in 2017. Next on the list are the Long Hill and Wickham Wood neighborhoods.

"We've never done a project this size before," Ruschke said.

In other business, the Chatham Township Committee unanimously passed a resolution that calls for a DEP survey of the wetlands ramifications for the Skate Park Property. The DEP will provide a letter of interpretation for possible development of the three acre tract near the police station.

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