EDITOR: I write in response to John Sweeney's letter to the editor of the Bernardsville News. Mr. Sweeney, in my opinion, has falsely accused the Peapack-Gladstone Council of “gambling” with the taxpayer’s money in the Mosle Road project in a Sept. 29 letter to the editor.
The truth is the Mosle Road contract had a contingency clause in it to “shield the borough” from legal and other repercussions in the event of unforeseen and unplanned project delays. The contract was reviewed not only by the council, but also by the borough administrator and the borough attorney to make sure that the risks were managed.
Following the state’s suspension of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) projects, the council deliberated long and hard about moving forward and decided that the risk exposure to the taxpayers was too great in the absence of TTF grant certainty. Thus, the council opted for a temporary repair job through our own department of public works to get us through the winter or until the TTF matter was resolved.
This is another instance where the mayor and council have been excellent stewards of taxpayer money. They have performed very well despite the fact that prior administrations dealt them a poor fiscal hand. As a prominent councilman and finance committee chair, Sweeney was the architect of a short-sighted fiscal policy. Among other things, this short-sighted fiscal policy espoused by then councilman Sweeney produced outsized employee benefit costs and high debt.
In 2006, when Sweeney was on the council, the council voted to re-authorize employees retirement health benefits beyond those required by state law, one that is granted by a very small number of towns in our state. While we certainly want to reward our employees for loyalty and good work, that council did not provide any clear funding mechanism. They left the issue open for future councils to deal with.
As a result, the borough will pay approximately $662,000 for health care in 2016. Contrast that figure with Bedminster, which will pay an estimated $703,000. Bedminster has more than triple P-G population, almost five times the land mass and approximately 33 active employees to our approximately 21.
In addition, during the Sweeney era, the borough relied too heavily on borrowing. When Sweeney left the council, the borough was left with over $5 million in debt, over $4 million of which was in bonds.
I have no doubt that the P-G Borough Council would welcome constructive input from any interested taxpayer. A political letter to the editor is hardly that sort of input.
A telephone call, or an email, or even a visit to a council meeting, which are all clearly noted on the borough’s web site, would be welcomed.
Editor's Note: Mr. Sweeney did not submit his letter to TAP into Somerset Hills.