HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Jane Staats and Harrison Burke, Democratic candidates for Township Committee, have called upon the Township Committee to provide clarity in their agendas for their public meetings, citing a $20 million lease purchase deal for a property that has been in litigation for about 10 years.
This property was purchased for $2.5 million by the current owner, and there was no explanation why the cost is now $20 million to the Hillsborough taxpayers, according to the candidates.
Staats and Burke said the public was not notified that $20 million of debt was involved in the public hearing at the July 11th township committee meeting; the agenda simply said the item was for “approving the form and authorizing the execution of a lease purchase agreement with the Somerset County Improvement Authority relating to the issuance of County Guaranteed Lease Revenue Bond (Township of Hillsborough), and any notes issued in anticipation thereof by the Somerset County Improvement Authority.” This description was not inclusive of a major impact on our taxpayers, according to the candidates.
“The amount of $20 million was not mentioned in the agenda to the general public, unlike other items on the agenda that had much smaller amounts. For the sake of being straightforward and open to the public, that amount should have been listed in advance in the agenda,” Staats said. In addition, agenda items identify properties by lot and block number rather than the more familiar street addresses. The Township Committee has been asked before to notate properties by address, according to Staats.
“The Township Committee is authorizing a $20 million debt, and they waited until the last minute to let the public know that they have pledged the full faith and credit of the Township to repaying this debt,” Burke added.
“For a township that puts out a weekly newsletter and calls itself fiscally responsible, it should be expected that a hearing for $20 million in debt would be widely publicized,” Burke said.
It was said at the same township committee meeting that the township is buying this land in an attempt to limit development within Hillsborough, according to the candidates.
“However, the Township Committee is in the process of approving new development projects along Mountain View Road and Route 206 that will add approximately 700 apartments less than a mile away,” Burke said.