ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury needs to spend more money on its roads, the township's new manager acknowledged today.
Speaking before the Roxbury Rotary Club, township manager John Shepherd said he is happy with most everything else in his new surroundings. "I see a lot of great things going on in town," said Shepherd, whose came in May from Pennsylvania, where he left a position as manager of North Huntingdon Township. "There's great community involvement, more than where I came from ... We have people that really get involved and that's been impressive to me."
He said the municipal government does a great job upgrading and maintaining other aspects of Roxbury infrastructure, but Shepherd said he’s not happy about the number of township roads in bad shape.
"From my perspective, there is really one thing I see in town that I wish we could do better at, one thing: We need to spend more money on our roads," he said. "We spend it on other infrastructure. But I think that, when it comes to our road system, I would like to see that improved."
Shepherd stressed he is a fiscal conservative, suggesting that his belief is aligned with that of similarly conservative former Roxbury Township Manager Chris Raths, the man he replaced May 30. So he’s not in favor of borrowing big bucks to fix the worn out streets.
The Roxbury Mayor and Council's desire to reach a debt-free status by 2018 includes resisting the temptation to borrow money for road improvement. Roxbury spends about $1 million yearly on road repair and the Roxbury Department of Public Works tries to stick to a priority-based road repair schedule.
That hasn’t really kept up with the deterioration of Roxbury’s 107 miles of municipal roads, conceded Shepherd. He said tattered roads are irritating to taxpayers who take pride in their homes and businesses. "People in Roxbury take care of their properties, but some of the roads are not as great as we want them to be," he said.
The manager noted that Roxbury’s elected officials do not disagree with his assessment. "The council realizes that,” Shepherd told the Rotarians. He said town officials are looking forward to retiring Roxbury's remaining debt next year so some of the tax dollars now spent on debt service can be redirected to increased road repair.
“A lot of the things Roxbury has been doing, and will continue to do, are things I relate to,” Shepherd said. “It’s a conservative town financially. North Huntingdon was very conservative. We had no debt. From my perspective, it’s a good way to operate.”