SCOTCH PLAINS — The Scotch Plains Township Council on Tuesday evening passed four capital bond ordinances that will finance more than $4.2 million in new expenditures.
Among the items that will be funded by the newly approved bond ordinances are:
- a new fire truck that will replace a vehicle that dates back almost four decades and other fire department necessities
- police radios and three new 4x4 police vehicles
- interior and exterior upgrades at the Shady Rest Clubhouse at the Scotch Hills Country Club
- improvements at the Frazee House on Raritan Road
- repaving of Byrd Avenue
- installing a new heating and air-conditioning system for the library
"Nothing here is discretionary," said Mayor Kevin Glover, who added that people who know him understand that he is "fiscally conservative." The mayor also expressed that he would not compromise the safety of the police and fire departments.
Mayor Kevin Glover, Deputy Mayor Rose Checchio and Councilman John Del Sordi, all Democrats, deemed the spending necessary. Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella said that she struggled with the amount of money being spent, but ultimately voted in favor of all four bond ordinances.
ORD 20169 Bond Ordinance to authorize the acquisition of new additional or replacement equipment and machinery, new communication and signal systems equipment, IT equipment, a new fire truck and new police vehicles. ($1,640,500) .
ORD 201610 Bond Ordinance to authorize various public improvements, including replacing the library's HVAC system ($1,601,500).
ORD 201611 Bond Ordinance to undertake various improvements to the Shady Rest Clubhouse at Scotch Hills Golf Course ($565,000).
ORD 201612 Bond Ordinance to make various purchases for parks and recreation activities ($438,000).
Councilman Llewellyn Jones, the lone Republican on the council, was outvoted by a 4-1 margin on each measure.
"We are purchasing through credit card. Ultimately, the bill will come due. Some of these items are valid, but $4.2 million is too much," Jones said. "Repaving Byrd Ave., investing in radios and a pump station are things we should do. I thought $2 million was as far as he was willing to go. There is no way that I can vote for the necessities. I'm left with the option of voting against all four."
"I've struggled for what the right thing to do is for the residents. You hope the decision you make is the right one," said Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella. "$4 million in debt is an extremely frightening number. When you look at what equipment the employees have to serve the residents, it is also frightening. It is not acceptable that there are spots in the high school where the police radios don't work."
Gialanella said she was troubled to learn that Scotch Plains volunteer firefighters were driving to other departments and cleaning their equipment.
"I'm left with a conflict and we are left with an absolute, take the $4 million or not purchase (the items). Tonight I will support the budget with a level of disappointment that we could not work together."
Councilman John Del Sordi expressed disappointment that "a lot of items fell to the wayside."
"If you buy a house, you have to take care of it," Del Sordi explained. "I believe that we need to look to the future. Hopefully, the leadership hear could put a plan together so that some day we are not faced with this."
“I don’t think we’re spending unnecessarily,” said Deputy Mayor Rose Checchio, who acknowledged that $4.2 million is a lot of money.
"Years of procrastination have had led to the present situation."
"Our fire truck is 39 years old. Our volunteers are there to rescue and save us. We pour accolades on them, and now we don't want to give them a piece of equipment to do the job," Mayor Glover challenged.
Regarding the Shady Rest Clubhouse, Mayor Glover said: "I look forward to the end of the year when the Shady Rest is restored to the glory of its past. It will be a source of great pride."
Mayor Glover explained his vision that the Shady Rest will be a profit center for the town because it can host many different functions.
"I said all along that there is just too much spending," said Councilman Jones in a phone interview with TAPintoSPF to explain why he was the lone holdout. "I'm not comfortable with issuing more than two million dollars in bond ordinances.There are things in the budget that I support. The spending was split into four ordinances to try to make it harder for me to vote against them. It's pure politics."