Bob Conley, a two term Council member, is running for Madison Mayor this fall. In a prepared statement, Conley discussed the value of partnerships for funding projects and reducing costs. Conley stated:
“The days of going it alone and not working with partners are long over. There are many factors feeding the property tax challenge in New Jersey, two major ones are the many towns working independently, the other is spending more than you can afford. Both can be attacked through the development of partnerships.
There has been a great buzz around the new facility on Shunpike Road in Chatham Township. Two artificial turf multi-purpose fields and one natural grass baseball field, all with lights, have been installed. This is a beautiful complex, much like the project underway at the 49 acres. There has been some discussion about the differences between the turf products at each site, but that is actually secondary to the one thing in Chatham that won’t be part of the Madison project. This key difference could be easily overlooked, but as shown in the accompanying photo, there it is, mounted on a rock, a plaque, recognizing the partnership that made the great complex behind ‘Castle’ park a reality.
The plaque reads, ‘This Field project was made possible through a partnership between Chatham Township, Chatham Borough and the Chatham Athletic Foundation…’ The Madison project, which is to be completed before the spring sports season, will not have a plaque but if it did it might read: ‘This beautiful sports complex was made possible entirely by borrowing $3.4 million with the interest and principal to be paid for by the taxpayers of Madison.’
In 2011, no town can afford to go it alone. Exciting projects such as our new field complex could have generated broad donor interest. And, as it is being built on property adjacent to the High School, it should also have been funded in a partnership with the Board of Education, a partnership established prior to the start of construction. Sadly it is nearing completion with a mere $55,000 of fundraising in the bank and no partners. At the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum on October 11th, Mayor Holden pointed out that the new Meadowlands Stadium went a year before MetLife committed to the naming rights. It’s a scary thought when you are comparing the funding for a $1.5 billion two-team NFL stadium to what should have been a great community project in Madison.
The importance of partnerships extends to maintaining our roads. State funds are available for what are categorized as collector or arterial roads; the designation is based on traffic loads. There are many roads in Madison that need attention. Regretfully of the ones currently due for paving or reconstruction, only three are eligible for state funding: Ridgedale, Rosedale and Green Avenues. Over the past three years we completed two projects – Woodland Rd and Brooklake Rd (Chatham partnership) – with another partnership project underway, the second phase of Woodland Rd. Ridgedale, Rosedale and Green Avenues are eligible for more than a half a million dollars of state grant money, except for one problem, we are not applying for aid for the reconstruction of Green Ave. This spring, the Council voted 4-2 to ‘fast track’ the Green Ave project and to fund it solely with Madison money. No doubt Green Ave was in bad shape, but here it is October, and it’s still in bad shape. Couldn’t we have waited for the spring and completed the project with as much as $200,000 of state aid, money we send to Trenton that is now going elsewhere?
The last example of partnership comes in the development of shared services. This year we created the Joint Court with the Chathams and Harding Township, a great example of a partnership. While the negotiations were going on, Madison was trying to stop Chatham’s community garden project. Maybe this was not the best location for their gardens, but we could have had, at least, a direct dialogue. Instead, we had PSE&G pull their lease. In fact, when Chatham passed a resolution requesting reconsideration from Madison, Mayor Holden didn’t even want to respond to it. It took a vote of the Council to force an official acknowledgement letter back to Chatham.
For one hundred years, we have partnered with Chatham in managing the Joint Sewage Treatment Plant. Is this the way we should treat a long-time partner? Of course not, we need to treat our neighbors with respect for we need them to be our partners today and well into the future.
These are challenging times. We cannot get through them alone, and we will have do it with partnerships, working closely with the State, neighboring towns, and community groups. We must take a common sense approach, take advantage of opportunities and treat our neighbors with respect.”