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Democratic Candidates Point to Benefits of Madison’s Open Space Fund

Democratic candidates John Hoover and Carmela Vitale enjoy the view from newly installed MRC-1 bleachers with Recreation Advisory Committee member Tom Haralampoudis Credits: David Luber

Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Carmela Vitale of Myrtle Avenue and John Hoover of Overhill Drive observed that “the latest demonstration of the benefit of Madison’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund to our community is the installation of permanent bleacher seats and a new press box at the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC).” The candidates also pointed out that “the fund provided the seed funds that enabled us to be awarded grants from the county totaling $545,651for reconstruction projects at Madison’s Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) and the Hartley Dodge Memorial this year.”

 “The acquisition and development of the MRC is a perfect example of how the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund can successfully work for Madison residents,” the candidates stated.  “Of the $13 million cost for the 49 acres of former Exxon-Mobil property that is the site of the MRC, $8.9 million or 78% came from state and county grants. And now, thanks to the efforts of the borough administration and the active support of our representatives in Trenton, Senator Richard Codey and Assembly members Mila Jasey and John McKeon, Madison has been granted an additional $500,000 in Green Acres funding to help pay off the bonded debt (principal) incurred by the borough for its share of the cost of the MRC property.  This will free up future income from the Open Space Tax that can now be used for other initiatives.”

The $3.5 million cost for the two turf fields, constructed at the MRC, has also been paid for by a combination of the borough, the board of education, the state, and the Madison Athletic Foundation (MAF) and members of the recreation community.  Annual contributions from the trust fund go to paying off the interest and principal on the bonds issued by the borough for its contribution to the purchase price of the property and the turf fields.

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“This year, $442 for the establishment of a pollinator meadow across from the Community Garden and $250,000 for the press box and bleachers that will seat 250 spectators at the MRC-1 field came from the trust fund,” stated Vitale.  “The $250,000 represents 90% of the cost of the improvements; the remaining 10% came from private contributions.  We like this concept of private-public partnering for Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation funded projects.  In the future, the plan is for the trust fund to pay for 80% of the cost of sponsored projects with the remaining 20% coming from private contributions.”

“The MRC success is just one example of how the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund leverages borough dollars with grant money from the state and county,” added Hoover.  “The 18th century Luke Miller house was saved from demolition, Livesey Park was established beside the Kings Road School property, and the fields at the former Bayley Ellard High School were purchased using combinations of trust fund money and county and state grants. More recent examples include the announced grant awards from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund of $280,401 for the final stage of the ongoing METC exterior preservation project and $265,250 for entry and plaza restoration work at the Hartley Dodge Memorial.

The candidates concluded, “We fully support funding the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund with the Municipal Open Space Tax at its current rate in order to ensure that we protect Madison’s water supply, its historic heritage, and the recreational facilities our residents clearly want.  A reasonable Open Space Tax is the smart, cost-effective way to build community and enhance quality of life in Madison. 

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