SPRINGFIELD, NJ - The Springfield Township Committee once again addressed the question of infrastructure renovations to the township’s community pool at its March 28, 2017 meeting, with committee persons expressing diverse opinions on the conclusions drawn from the February 2, 2017 feasibility study on the pool’s operations.
Township Administrator Ziad Shehady gave a recap of the matter’s history, noting that the discussions surrounding the pool’s pool house started “several years ago”. More recent discussions focused the merits of a renovation of the pool house over a complete rebuild.
The feasibility study, paid for in part from a $1 million bond floated on behalf of pool facility improvements, sought to clarify the question as to whether the pool could cover the financial costs of renovation. Shehady described the pool as a “self-liquidating” utility, under which revenues are accounted for separately and direct costs of operations are paid directly from those revenues. Nevertheless, bonds with respect to pool improvements need to be floated by the Township, explained Shehady.
He further noted that decisions on the matter should be made soon, to give the township time to float the bonds necessary to start renovations after the close of the 2017 pool season in September.
The report’s conclusions notwithstanding, committeeman Huber and Committeewoman Dubois expressed reservations about whether the pool’s surplus would be sufficient to repay the bond, particularly if the renovations required the higher end estimate of $3 million quoted in the report. They peppered Chief Financial Officer Michael Quick with a number of questions on the pool’s finances ranging from current debt obligations to the pool’s profitability in recent years.
“Everything else is very much a prediction”, noted Committeewoman Dubois, referring to the enhanced future revenues the pool was forecast to receive on account of the proposed improvements.
Quick, in response to Huber, noted the pool profit is definitely growing the excess of revenue over appropriations “has definitely grown over the last couple of years”, seeming to support the conclusions reflected in the report.
Shehady emphasized the veracity of the report noting the extensive research that went into it. “We hired a consultant to do this report, with the feeling that we would rely on this individual’s analysis, the individual had interviews with Mr. Quick, with Mr. Lee, with a number of officials throughout he reviewed all of our records, really crunched the surpluses, everything and came to the conclusion that the pool can sustain this new debt”, he noted.
However, Committeewoman Dubois noted that “…ninety percent of the town does not use the pool. I don’t want them paying for the renovations through their tax dollars”, referring to the fact that only ten percent of the township residents are members of the pool.
Deputy mayor Marie Vassallo supported the conclusion of the feasibility study. “I’ve made up my mind as what I want to do already”, stating that in her view, renovations were preferable to new construction for the pool house. She stressed that the time for debate was over.
”We had bonded that money with the sole purposes of obtaining this feasibility report so that we could ensure that the pool has enough money to float this bond, and the report does reflect that, she added, addressing in part Committeeman Huber. “It can, in fact do so, so I just feel like we’re now going in circles, when I thought the main purpose of was to determine if we could float particular bond.”
Former Township Mayor Jerry Fernandez, addressing the township committee during an opportunity for public comment, spoke in favor of the pool renovations.
“This town was just picked as one of the top towns for families. If you don’t think the pool will contribute to that, then you’re wrong,” he asserted. He at one point criticized Committeeman Huber’s approach. “I give you credit Mr. Huber, because you were in favor, but you wanted this report done, you wanted an expert. This was an expert who had no affiliation with party politics anything like that, and now you’re standing here questioning this expert’s report.”
At one point, the exchange between Huber and Fernandez became heated, when Fernandez said they shouldn’t make this a political issue.
“Don’t bring politics into this, because it isn’t politics!” shouted Huber, in response.
The discussion concluded with the formation of a new subcommittee composed of Deputy Mayor Vassallo and Committeewoman Dubois to go over the feasibility report and report back to the committee.
In other committee business, the committee introduced an ordinance which reflects the township’s settlement on affordable housing. The ordinance, styled as an ordinance “to Effectuate the Requirements of the Conditional Declaratory Judgment of Compliance and Repose entered by the Superior Court of New Jersey on December 21, 2016”, will have a second reading at the committee’s April 18, 2017 meeting.
Shehady noted that it was a compromise entered into by the town to avoid additional litigation costs over the issue.
Also, in a heartwarming story, police chief John Cook related the story of a township police officer Brandon Lorenz who delivered his own daughter back on March 17th, at 2:05 in the morning, just minutes after his wife Connie noted contractions were coming at a quick page. He read an email from Officer Lorenz providing an account of the evening.
He was leading his wife down their driveway of their home in Mountainside to take her to the hospital when his wife said that she could feel the baby coming. Officer Lorenz laid his wife down on the driveway with a Mountainside police officer winter coat for support, and “…suddenly became and OB/GYN”, in his words. The baby was born just 15 minutes after Officer Lorenz called 911.
Mike Scalera, Chair of the Springfield Business Improvement District, also provided a report giving an update on progress with the District’s initiatives.
Next Township meeting will be on April 4 at 7 p.m. to accommodate the first day of Passover on April 11.
Mayor Stampoulos also reported that Town Hall will have a delayed opening to 9:30 a.m. on March 30th, to accommodate an active Shooter Drill for township employees.