Republican Candidates Blast Council on Open Space Spending
In a letter to the editor, candidates Phil Garwood, Victoria Napolitano and Pete Palko chastise three of the sitting council members for acting against the will of the voters.
To the editor:
Monday evening, Mayor (John) Button, Deputy Mayor (Greg) Gallo, and Councilman (Mike) Testa once again showed their disregard for the voters and taxpayers of Moorestown by voting to spend $1,510,000 out of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, with the potential to take an additional $405,000.
Like you, our team is deeply concerned about our town’s finances and its ability to attract families to our town, along with our ability to maintain the small-town feel and quality of life that we all enjoy. Without question, our parks and recreational facilities are an integral part of our town’s ability to attract new families. The improvement of parks and recreational facilities will remain a priority for our team in the near-term. Equally important is our ability to continue to acquire open space as approved by voters using the Open Space Trust Fund. This fund allows us to control the rate of development and strike a balance between having beautiful open space versus our need for ratable income.
Over the past year, Mayor Button has argued and debated the use of our open space dollars to fund a nearly $4 million athletic field project that includes the planning, design, construction, and inspection of an artificial turf field, parking, and scoreboards. We very strongly agree with council members Stacey Jordan and Chris Chiacchio that the work should have been deferred until next year when the township is in a better fiscal position to afford the work that has been proposed without having to drain the Open Space Fund.
When given the chance to let the public’s voice be heard on this issue, Mayor Button voted against a motion to put the question on a referendum on the November ballot to clarify the Open Space usage definition and protect against a threatened lawsuit. This is reflective of a consistent disregard for the same voters who elected him four years ago.
We feel this spending is unacceptable and out of step with the will of the voters of Moorestown. In its current value, the fund cannot both support these recreational capital improvements and fulfill its prior obligations and traditional functions. By moving forward at this time and depleting the fund, impending projects that would have been paid for out of the fund, such as future repairs to dams and dredging projects slated for Strawbridge Lake, will be forced to become bonded projects. This is in addition to the fact that the Open Space Fund will not be available for acquisition of land or qualify for matching dollars from the county and state.
We want to be very clear in saying that our team has always supported investing in our recreation programs and athletic fields and will continue to do so. The divisive tactics have to stop. Moorestown deserves a town council of consensus-building elected officials that represent the interests of all of our taxpayers.
Phil Garwood, Victoria Napolitano, Pete Palko
Republican candidates for Moorestown Township Council
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