RANDOLPH, NJ- Newly appointed Mayor Roman Hirniak was the guest speaker at the 2016 kick off meeting of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce on Thursday Jan. 21. Hirniak addressed Township business leaders and updated them on topics such as infrastructure upgrades, tax revaluation, and parks master plans.
Chamber President Lou Nisivoccia opened the luncheon with announcements, including the next Randolph “Business After Hours” networking event that will take place on March 2 at Forte’s from 5-7 p.m. Nisivoccia also informed the group of an upcoming meeting on Thursday Mar. 17, when the Chamber will welcome a speaker from Appraisal Systems, the company handling the Tax Revaluation program currently taking place in town.
Hirniak touched on a variety of topics, including some good news updates on the Sussex Turnpike road construction project, stating, “We received a pleasant update from the county, telling us that they took advantage of the warm weather at the end of 2015, and are ahead of schedule. They anticipate the project will be done in January of 2017.”
Although there are many components to that project, the re-alignment of Sussex and Hanover is the centerpiece of that job. Hirniak further explained that the completion of the road project should pave the way for the development at the intersection called Marks Corner to be able to begin.
Hirniak added, "This Sussex Turnpike project has been needed for a very long time. When complete, it is going to look fantastic."
Another initiative on the table which the Mayor spoke about eagerly is a trail marking system for Randolph’s vast 16 mile trail system. The idea arose after an incident last summer, in which a boy needed emergency medical attention, but his friend who alerted police was unable to identify specifically where he was.
Hirniak said, “We are talking about discreet markers that will not take away from the natural look of our trail system, but markers that would be noticeable if they needed to be found.” Hirniak further stated an idea has been discussed about having youth groups such as boy and girl scouts, civic groups such as Rotary and Chamber, and local businesses all involved to make it a “community project”.
When discussing the Parks Master plan, Hirniak talked about a possible use for the parcel of land off Calais road called 90 Acres, stating, “One of the things that we are missing here in town is a ‘Family style’ park, where a family can gather to have a picnic, or throw a Frisbee. We are now toying with the idea to potentially turn 90 acres into a family style park… With a bandshell and a large grass area for summer concerts, a community garden, a mountain biking trail, a bocce court… the ideas go on and on.” Hirniak further stated the council is nowhere near making a decision, but called it “Incredibly reasonable from a budgetary perspective to get that grand slam of a park."
A topic which Hirniak was particularly proud to discuss was the townships AAA Debt rating, telling the group that Randolph is one of only six municipalities in the entire state to achieve that rate. “It is by virtue of sound, prudent, fiscal policy that both the current council and previous councils have been implementing that has earned Randolph that highest rating. It allows us to borrow at the lowest interest rate possible, and makes it very easy for us to sell our bonds,” Hirniak said.
Part of that high rating from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s ( the leading credit rating providers ) is due to a reserve of surplus cash the township has built up. Hirniak was happy to announce that a large withdrawal will be made from that account in 2016 for road repairs, on which the township will spend “substantionally more this year than the 1 million we average in most years.”
The tax revaluation program drew interest and questions from the group. By law, municipalities must go through a revaluation every 10 years. Despite concerns, Hirniak was clear that this does not automatically mean taxes will go up, explaining, “The revaluation does not change the budget. Last year our budget was 29 million dollars, and this process does not increase that number. What it changes is how that amount is funded. Some people will see taxes will go up, some will stay the same, and some will go down.”
The discussion continued further with some attendees providing insight, clarifying that the total amount of taxes collected will basically remain the same, but how that “pie” is sliced up, and who contributes what amount, is what will change. Residents and businesses who have concerns after they get their assessment can go through an appeals process.
Last, Hirniak said the township is joining hands with Habitat for Humanity to build 25 affordable housing units, calling it, “not only a legal obligation to do so, but a moral obligation as well.”