Candidate Statements

Candidate Statements

The County Park: How I got to “NO”

In December 2008, I offered a resolution to improve Oakwood Park by constructing one turf field, re-grading the remaining field, and expanding the parking lot.  The improvements would have been paid for with surplus funds and a small, low-interest bond that would have cost the average taxpayer a few dollars per month.  Under my plan, the new field would have opened on August 1, 2009.  My colleagues on the Council did not support the plan, and the resolution failed.

A month later, in January 2009, Mayor John Thoms announced that he had struck a deal for Union County to take ownership of the park, and spend $3.5 million from the County’s open space trust fund to install two turf fields, an expanded parking lot, and a new club house.  In his announcement, Mr. Thoms represented that New Providence would retain complete legal control over the improved park, and that it would be a County park in name only. 

Initially, I regarded the deal as an opportunity to remedy substandard conditions caused by overuse – which has always been a priority of mine as a Councilman.  I spoke with County officials, walked Oakwood Park with them, and received repeated assurances that New Providence would retain full legal control over Oakwood Park under the deal that they had struck with Mr. Thoms.  County officials also assured me that we could retake ownership of the park if we ever became dissatisfied with the arrangements.  Based on these representations, I initially voiced public support for deeding Oakwood Park to Union County.

Sign Up for E-News

However, as the Council began negotiating with Union County, I found that the deal was quite different than the one that Mayor Thoms had announced.  During the negotiations, I asked the County to include its oral promises in the memorandum of understanding, the contract of sale, and the deed conveying the property.  Surprisingly, my requests were denied. 

Recognizing that New Providence would be giving up a very large and important asset, I wanted to ensure that we would always have a legally enforceable right to receive the benefits now being promised by the County.  So I requested that three specific provisions be included in the memorandum of understanding, contract of sale, and deed.  First, I asked for a reverter clause, which would automatically return ownership of Oakwood Park to New Providence – at no cost to the Borough – if Union County ever breaches any agreement or promise relating to the use and maintenance of the park.  Second, I asked that we agree upon a schedule for depreciating the value of the improvements, and include a provision empowering New Providence to purchase the park from the County, at its then-depreciated value, at any time we might choose to do so.  Third, I asked for a provision giving New Providence full legal control over scheduling events in Oakwood Park.  However, during a face-to-face meeting with County officials, each of my requests was denied. 

Worse yet, the County responded to my requests by insisting that the legal documents include a provision limiting our right to retake ownership of the park.  Because of this provision, there is no real possibility that the Borough could ever get the park back, even if the County fails to live up to its promises.  At the County’s insistence, the legal documents must include a term providing that New Providence may only reacquire Oakwood Park if Union County fails to accommodate a scheduling request twice in one year.  In such cases, New Providence would have 90 days to come up with $3.5 million to repurchase the park – regardless of the age and condition of the turf fields, club house, and parking lots.  In other words, if the County fails to accommodate Borough scheduling requests 10 years from now, New Providence could only repurchase Oakwood Park by paying Union County the full, original cost of improvements that will, by then, have depreciated in value -- without regard to the condition of those improvements.  Moreover, the provision leaves New Providence without any legal recourse to enforce any other promises that the County is now making.

The memorandum of understanding provides that Union County will have full legal control over all matters at Oakwood Park, and New Providence will have none.  While supporters of County ownership continue to insist that the Borough would retain control, this is simply not true. 

It’s also important to clear up confusion over who is getting the $3.5 million in improvements.  In reality, the County is not offering New Providence anything at all.  If we sell the park for $1, then the County promises to borrow $3.5 million to improve a park that will be owned by the County – not by New Providence.  Under the Mayor’s deal, New Providence is not, and will not, receive any money from the County’s open space trust fund.  The County intends to borrow money to spend on its own park, and it intends to retain full legal control over use and scheduling.

If Mayor Thoms had negotiated a good deal with the County – or at least the one that he announced in January 2009 – I would continue to support County ownership.  The County’s refusal to give back the park if it fails to live up to its promises is simply unacceptable to me.  The County’s refusal to allow us to repurchase the park at its depreciated value is also unacceptable.  To me, these are very reasonable provisions that would protect New Providence from a deal gone bad. 

Control over use and scheduling is important.  That’s why the County refuses to give up legal control, and it’s why even supporters of County ownership talk so much about who will be in control of use and scheduling.

There is simply no truth to the claim that New Providence will have legal control over use and scheduling.  The truth – which is found in the plain and unambiguous language of the memorandum of understanding-- is that if Oakwood Park is sold to the County for $1, then the County will have full legal control, and New Providence will have no viable recourse if the County ever fails to live up to its end of the bargain. 

So for me, it comes down to this:  No legal control, no legal recourse, no county park.  And that’s how I got to “No”. 



The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Providence

New Jersey Youth Symphony Announces 2018 Summer Camps

February 20, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE—The New Jersey Youth Symphony announced today that it will hold two summer camps, Orchestral Camp from June 24 until July 7 and Junior Winds Camp from July 30 until August 3, at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence. Campers can take advantage of a 5% tuition discount by registering before the Early Registration deadline on June 1, 2018. For more information visit ...

Mike Zuko at Salem Roadhouse Cafe

Raised on a diet of The Beatles, Buddy Holly and The Doors, Michael Zuko was exposed first hand to the thrilling music of the legendary 70s NYC club scene. Zuko and the band show a skilled singer-songwriter who is backed by solid musical talent, bringing original, fresh and intelligent lyrics to the stage. A true entertainer, Mike engages the audience fully and leaves them wanting more. Mike and ...

German Language School of Morris County Raises $1,000 for Market Street Mission

February, the month of all things red and romantic with red, hearts, roses, and chocolates, is also a time to show our love of friends and community. Students from the German Language School of Morris County ( and, took that lesson to heart and raised $1,000 for The Market Street Mission (, a Morristown haven for the needy for more than ...

Kick Off for the Relay for Life of Berkeley Heights, Mountainside, New Providence & Summit 

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - There will be a Kick Off for Relay for Life on Thursday, March 1st. It will be held at the Gov. Livingston High School Cafeteria at 7pm.  The theme of Kick Off is Back TO GL - we envision a future that is cancer free. Everything you need to know about Relay for Life will be presented in an interactive setting. Relay ...

Home for Good Dog Rescue's Annual "Taste of Italy" Dinner & Tricky Tray

For the ninth consecutive year, Home for Good Dog Rescue's "Taste of Italy" Spaghetti & Meatballs Dinner and Tricky Tray returns to the Long Hill Community Center in Stirling, NJ. More than 300 guests will gather on Saturday, March 3, for a family-friendly Italian-themed dinner featuring a wealth of prize baskets, including but not limited to gift certificates, pet products and ...

Plainfield Symphony Presents “Shostakovich: A Light from the Darkness”


On March 10, 2018 at 7 pm, the Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Charles Prince, will feature the opportunity to experience more of the music of the great 20th century composer, Dmitri Shostakovich. Concertmistress Evelyn Estava will step into the role of soloist in the tour-de-force Violin Concerto No. 1 followed by the rarely performed Symphony No ...

Colleen Mahr Has Paid Her Dues, Earned Peoples’ Trust, and Left a Track Record of Success

February 20, 2018

Dear Editor:

As a 26-year-old Scotch Plains resident who cares more about the well-being of our town than about local politics, I am extremely disappointed that the Scotch Plains Democratic Committee leadership has decided to abandon Colleen Mahr in her run for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee.

Mahr, who as Mayor of Fanwood for 15 years has worked closely with Scotch Plains ...

We Need More Women Like Colleen Mahr in Municipal, County and State Government

Dear Editor:

I’m proud to support Colleen Mahr for Chair of the Union County Democratic Committee  (UCDC) and am encouraging my Scotch Plains peers to join me.

I was a first time candidate wanting to make a difference in my hometown of Scotch Plains, when Mayor Mahr of neighboring Fanwood stepped in to help me campaign and win my election to be Councilwoman three years ago.

Chatham Borough Police Chief Crosson has Retired; Captain Gibbons is Acting Commander

February 12, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - Phil Crosson Jr., who has been a member of the Chatham Borough Police Department since 1992, retired from his position as the police chief on Feb. 1.

"It came on pretty quickly," Crosson said when reached by phone on Sunday. "I was on vacation for six weeks and I bought a business. I came back for one day and retired."

According to Crosson, ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, February 20

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green


Tue, February 20, 8:00 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Pilates Abs and Arms

Health & Wellness


Tue, February 20, 9:15 AM

Providence Health and FItness, New Providence

Essential Hatha Yoga

Health & Wellness


Tue, February 20, 10:30 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Essential Hatha Yoga

Health & Wellness


Tue, February 20, 5:30 PM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Barre Intensity

Health & Wellness


Tue, February 20, 6:30 PM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence


Health & Wellness