Union County Residents Question Freeholders on Financing for Mind and Body Project

Union County residents stood at the Freeholders meeting Aug. 18. They want the board to more closely examine the impact the project would have on taxpayers. Credits: Rebecca Panico
Roselle residents raised concerns about the impact of financing of the Mind and Body Complex project on taxpayers at the Freeholders meeting on Aug. 17. Credits: Rebecca Panico
Roselle residents raised concerns about the impact the Mind and Body Complex project would have on local taxpayers at the freeholders meeting. Aug. 17, 2017. Credits: Rebecca Panico

ELIZABETH, NJ - About 20 people Thursday raised concerns about the financing for the Roselle Mind and Body Complex during the public comments portion of the Union County Freeholders’ meeting.

The project includes a new school, community center, library and more in the borough.

The opportunity to speak was nixed last week when a freeholders’ special meeting vote regarding the issuance of $59 million in guaranteed bonds for the project was abruptly canceled after a Roselle resident threatened legal action against the board. 

“The county is reviewing financial documents as well as a number of other issues in making a determination” about the project, said county spokesman Sebastian D'Elia today.

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The resolution regarding the bonds was not on Thursday's agenda, but Roselle residents still came to raise concerns about the potential tax increase the project would create. The freeholders said they could not address the concerns at Thursday's meeting, citing potential litigation.

There are currently several different preliminary assessments that take into account different factors when determining the local tax increases for the project. Documents provided by Roselle residents have shown a tax increase of about $500, while other documents obtained by TAP have shown an increase of $294 by 2021. The median household income in Roselle is $43,397, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is down from $58,041 in 2010

Anthony Esposito, who formerly served on the Roselle Board of Education, retained a lawyer who sent a letter to the county counsel last week raising questions about the land lease for the project. The letter threatened legal action if the freeholders made a vote regarding the issuance of bonds for the project.

Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen sent a letter to municipal mayors in the county to alleviate concerns that they’d have to pick up the tab if Roselle defaulted on paying for the project. He told TAP last week that would only happen if Roselle went bankrupt, and that's never happened to a municipality in the state.

“Please note, questions related to bond referendums, validity of municipal ordinances as well as the local politics surrounding this project rest with the Borough of Roselle,” Bergen wrote in the letter obtained by TAP. “The County's only involvement with this project is the bond guarantee.”

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