Government

Capital Budget Battle at Scotch Plains Council's Conference Meeting

9c62416b78629fa30738_Glover_4-5-16.jpg
Mayor Kevin Glover got into heated exchanges with Councilman Llewellyn Jones and Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella over capital budget allocations on Tuesday evening. Credits: John Mooney
3cd1707d7c4bcfceb146_Jones_4-5-16.jpg
Councilman Llewellyn Jones believes $4.2 million in capital spending is too much. Credits: John Mooney
0593867dfa48245a2631_CG_4-5-16.jpg
Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella says the proposed capital budget does not allocate enough money to improve the downtown area of Scotch Plains. Credits: John Mooney
9c62416b78629fa30738_Glover_4-5-16.jpg

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains Township Council discussed its proposed 2016 capital budget in a contentious conference meeting on Tuesday evening.

Township Manager Al Mirabella put together to $4.2 million proposal of capital expenses after seeking input from the municipality's department heads, including the fire, police, DPW and recreation departments. Big ticket items include $1.2 million for a new fire truck to replace one that is over 30 years old, $550,000 for interior improvements at the Shady Rest clubhouse at the Scotch Hills Country Club, and more than $200,000 for upgrades at the Frazee House/Terry Lou Zoo property on Raritan Road.

The budget also calls for $190,000 to upgrade the HVAC (heating and air-conditioning) system at the Scotch Plains Public Library and proposes nearly $130,000 for the purchase of three 4x4 SUVs for the police department. Additional capital expenditures will be made in order to replace the current police radios with digital ones, which Scotch Plains Police Captain Ted Conley said will provide sharper broadcasting signals and improved radio coverage.

Sign Up for E-News

The capital expenditures also include $50,000 for the downtown improvement, which a dismayed Colleen Gialanella said “doesn’t put skin in the game.” The Councilwoman believes more must be done to improve sidewalks. She also wants to bury the electrical wires she said are "particularly hideous.”

Llewellyn Jones called for a much smaller capital bond ordinance of $1.8 or $1.9 million.

"We need to live within our means,” Councilman Jones said in voicing his opposition to the currently proposed $4.2-million capital figure.

"There are a lot in here that is good. We are moving in the right direction, but I am not comfortable with this amount of debt spending," said Jones, echoing Councilwoman Gialanella's position that the $50,000 allocated for downtown improvements is simply not enough.

Councilwoman Rose Checcio said that although she is fiscally conservative, she believes replacing the fire truck is necessary and that "no one wants to spend $150,000 at the DPW building, but it is needed."

During his discussion of the budget, Mayor Kevin Glover had sharp words aimed at Councilwoman Gialanella.

"I'm concerned when someone says the number item is downtown. I want to see it successful," Glover said. "My priority is to address woefully neglectful behavior of previous administrations. OSHA was closing down the DPW a few years ago. It took $100,000 to shore it up. Our employees should be our concern."

"On my watch public safety will come first. Anyone who wants to reprioritize that, go ahead," Glover said.

"It's easier to finish when you're not being interrupted. Budgets are essentially a negotiation," Gialanella responded. "You need four votes to bond, and you don't have them."

The mayor responded that "This government body is not going to be held hostage."

In an interview with TAPintoSPF following the budget discussions, Councilman Jones said he was concerned about the amount being spent. "Capital budgets require issuing bonds, and the interest payments make the amounts more than what's on paper. Eventually, the taxpayers have to pay off these debts."

"We may have a zero increase operating budget, but we are kicking the can down the road if we issue bonds to pay things off with interest. It'll cost the taxpayers more down the line," said Jones, who expressed frustration that the first time he got to see the proposed capital budget was during the meeting.

"The zero increase operating budget with a $4.2 million capital bond spending that will cost us more in the long run is clearly an 'election year budget'."

The capital bond ordinance will be discussed at the next Scotch Plains Council meeting on April 19. With Jones and Gialanella already expressing opposition to the budget, it is unlikely to be passed in its current form. Two years ago, the council rejected a $1.5 million bond ordinance with both Glover and Gialanella voting against the measure.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Scotch Plains/Fanwood

Summer Life Guard Job Opportunity in Union County

April 10, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ - Summer lifeguard positions are available at Union County’s public swimming pool, the Walter Ulrich Memorial Pool at Rahway River Park in Rahway.

“Union County’s Ulrich Pool provides our youth and adult summer job seekers with an opportunity to enjoy working outdoors in the fresh air all summer long while sharpening valuable life skills including leadership, ...

Why We Keep Kosher

Why We Keep Kosher

This week's parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah's dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher, fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated.

To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of disappointment that so many Jews still believe the kosher laws to be outdated.

Politics IS Government in Union County

April 21, 2018

Dear Editor:

After Bruce Patterson of Garwood was stopped from speaking at the Union County Freeholder meeting of March 22 regarding the politics behind refusing to give the party line to a sitting Freeholder, I thought this brazen suppression of free speech could not go unanswered.

At the April 19 meeting I answered with these comments.

After ten years of following government in Union ...

Helping Teenagers Deal with Prom Night Stress

April 18, 2018

Prom can be one of the most exciting times for your teenager but at the same time one of the most stressful. 

It can also be very stressful for parents as they prepare themselves to accept that their teenager is graduating and soon going away to school, while planning a weekend away after prom night. Going to the Shore for the weekend or somewhere overnight has become more of the ...

Baseball: Fox's Strong Pitching Leads Union Catholic to Victory over North 13th Street Tech

April 22, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Michael Fox delivered a strong game on the mound and six different players knocked in runs for Union Catholic as the Vikings defeated North 13th Street Tech, 8-4, on Saturday in Scotch Plains.

It's the second victory in three games for the Vikings, who improved to 4-7 on the season.

Fox, a sophomore lefty, struck out 10 and allowed three earned ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, April 23, 3:30 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

After School Club for Teens at Scotch Plains ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Wed, April 25, 4:00 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

Speak with Congressional Staff on April 25 at the ...

Government