WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Township of West Orange came one step closer to purchasing the Rock Spring Golf Course after the township council voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt an ordinance on second reading approving the purchase—giving the mayor and his administration authorization to make the Rock Spring deal.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Joe Krakoviak clarified that even with the five-person council’s unanimous approval, the ordinance in connection to the township’s purchase of Rock Spring only “moves the process forward, but doesn’t end it.” The acquisition of the 138-acre golf club is not yet finalized and awaits an additional bond ordinance that is scheduled for its second and final reading on March 19.
The bond ordinance would iron out the financial realities of the purchase, including the amount the township would borrow in order to finance the purchase, which could potentially total approximately $12 million, according to the governing body.
Some uncertainty still lies with the deal, as Krakoviak and freshman councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown have both expressed concerns over potential debt and budgetary impact the purchase could have on the township in the coming years.
Council members, including Matute-Brown and Krakoviak, responded to public comments on Tuesday that included an inquiry directed toward Krakoviak about what would make him feel better about the purchase.
“If we could get some sort of commitment by the administration and by the council that we need to cut back on borrowing going forward—that this is it for a long time until we pay this back,” Krakoviak said in response.
He also expressed concern over the possibility of adding debt on top of the $12 million the municipality would incur from the purchase in the coming years.
“One thing I have to say—and I say it every meeting, it’s a little debate the councilman [Krakoviak] and I have—we always talk about the debt we incur and never talk about the debt we pay down,” said Councilwoman Michelle Casalino. “We are way under the threshold the state recommends we should stay (3.5 percent) with this bond we would be at 1.49 percent—two points under state recommendation for debt ratio.”
Councilwoman Susan McCartney and Council President Guarino joined Casalino in supporting the deal and further emphasized the importance of Rock Spring being in the township’s control rather than in the hands of a private developer.
With everyone on the council acknowledging the opportunity the Rock Spring purchase presents, the debate will hinge on the finances and the economic impact it will have on the township for years to come—making the next bond ordinance vote even more challenging and a pivotal moment in determining whether the township will purchase the property.
The next township council meeting is scheduled for March 19 and will be held at Liberty Middle School instead of the Municipal Chambers (66 Main Street). The workshop will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the public meeting starting at 7 p.m.