West Orange Town Council Approves Bond for Ridgeway Property, 4-1

Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - The West Orange Town Council approved a $475,000 bond to develop a park at 55-57 Ridgeway Avenue at the May 21 town council meeting.  The vote was 4-1.  

Mayor Parisi was present to discuss the proposed bond, up for Second Reading, with town council members and the public.  The mayor explained that the Open Space Trust Fund Committee voted 6-1 in favor of funding the park with a bond, which would currently carry an interest rate of .403%. (This amount is good for a year, and the township crunched numbers to figure in an interest rate increase of up to about 2.5%). The township holds a triple A rating. The town's current debt capitalization ratio is 1% (debt being carried). The State's allowable rate is 3.5%. 

Town CFO anticipated "aggregate" anticipated interest would be between $14,000-70,000 spread over 15 years.  The expected total cost of approximately $470,000-$521,000 includes those costs, the development, and the cost for lighting at the park. The town expects to carry the note less than 15 years and will pay it off with Open Space Fund monies. The $38,000 architect fee was paid out of  bond monies from 2000. The township did not pay for the Ridgeway property.  It was received as part of a "swap." The Life Christian Church 'swapped' the property with the town in exchange for a parcel of property that the town had in front of Vizcaya on Northfield Avenue, in 2006. The church recently opened their new facility at 747 Northfield Avenue.

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The open space and recreation trust fund was created by ordinance to assist in the preservation of the township's character. The average homeowner pays $2 per $100,000 of assessed value. The annual collection averages $146,000. The Open Space Commission voted and gave their recommendation to the township to fund the Ridgeway Park through a bond. The Open Space Trust Fund currently contains about $430,000 in funds.  After this year, that number will increase by $146,000.  There are other Open Space expenses on the table that led the OSC and the administration to move in the direction of a bond. 

 In addition, the committees and subcommittees of St. Cloud residents that have been involved in the proposed development of the Ridgeway property, are investigating what can be done about the two buildings that are not included in the proposal.  Neighborhood resident Neil Brohm is spearheading the effort. Estimates for repair of the buildings came in at around $900,000.  However, should the neighborhood and township come up with a plan to sell those buildings over the next year or two, the buildings could become tax rateables for the township.  

Councilman Krakoviak, who is the council liasion on the Open Space Commission, was the dissenting vote on the Commission for recommendation of bond funding.  He preferred that the Open Space Commission use all the money in the trust fund for the Ridgeway property and fund other things down the road, and argued that point with town administrator Jack Sayers.  According to Mr. Sayers, the Open Space Commission has already committed $130,000 of existing trust fund dollars for acquisition of other properties. The ordinance was passed on second reading, 4-1, with Councilman Krakoviak the no vote.

Another ordinance on second reading to authorize 1.2 million in emergency appropriations was passed 5-0.  The township is contractually bound to provide for severance liabilities resulting from accrued leave in connection with layoff or retirement of employees.  The township expects several retirements over the next few years. Councilman Krakoviak suggested that instead of funding the Lincoln Field repairs and lighting for Soriano Field at West Orange High School, perhaps the township should be putting those funds into required expenses.

A resolution to approve funds for  tax appeals amounting to several million dollars was passed, 5-0.

It came to light that the town's street sweeper is currently under repair.  The township does not want to pay for a new one, amounting to approximately $180,000, but residents are complaining their streets have not been cleaned for two weeks.  

Councilman Krakoviak asked Mayor Parisi for an update on a former township employee that had a key to town hall and was being investigated.  Mayor Parisi said that the former employee had worked for the township for 15 years and had received a key to town hall while working for the previous administration.  The employee is also in charge of the Memorial Day Ceremony and Veteran's Affairs for the town as a volunteer and worked on those programs out of the Deputy Mayor's Office.  Parisi said that their investigation revealed that the former employee had been at town hall during inappropriate hours and may have been using the computer in the Deputy Mayor's office for inappropriate, as well as appropriate, reasons,.  The computer was found to have a virus and was subsequently repaired.  The former employee no longer has a key to town hall, though Mayor Parisi also noted that non employees having keys to buildings is not unprecedented.  


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