An attempt by council to fund improvements to the failed Monday, but will be brought back to the table in short order.
Township council considered an ordinance Monday to bond $655,000 to pay for improvements at the rec center, ranging from replacement of the gym floor to installation of a new ceiling and windows.
Township manager Scott Carew advised bonding for the project before putting it out to bid because architect Rick Ragan had broken it up into chunks—phase one being $49,977.75 for general masonry renovations—and Carew warned against potentially stalling the project if council needed to bond for each phase.
But Councilman Mike Testa questioned the wisdom of bonding before they knew the exact price, suggesting it was “kind of putting the cart before the horse … This is not consistent with how council has done things in the past.”
Testa was primarily concerned with how the township planned to pay for the project and what kind of an impact—if any—it would have on taxpayers. He was discouraged when financial officer Tom Merchel did not have those numbers readily available.
Carew said, while the project obviously costs “real dollars,” the debt service for it wouldn’t kick in until 2014—when the township’s annual debt payment would drop by $600,000.
“How this (recreation center improvements) factors into a possible tax increase depends on what decisions you guys make over the next few months (regarding other projects),” Carew said, referring to larger projects such as the field improvements and municipal complex.
"On its own, this would not cost the taxpayers," he said.
The manager said he fully supported funding the project, as did other members of council, including Councilman Chris Chiacchio, who said, “This is work that has to be done … It’s part of running the town.”
However, the vote split 3-1, with Testa providing the lone “no.” Bond ordinances require four votes to pass, and with Councilwoman Stacey Jordan absent, the motion died.
Testa expressed his support for the rec center project, but said he’s “not inclined to add burden to the taxpayer … For me, it’s all about, if there’s an incremental tax burden, now’s not the right time for it.”
Asked by a resident whether there’s any circumstance in which he’d support the project, Testa said, “Sure. When I know where the money comes from.”
Testa explained the difference between his support of the field improvements and his lack of support for the rec center improvements comes down to how they’re funded.
When council was still discussing bonding for the project last year, Testa said it was his intention that council pay for the debt service from the bond out of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which is money that’s already been collected and would therefore not impact taxpayers, he explained.
Mayor John Button, who voted in favor of bonding for the rec center improvements, recommended council reintroduce the bond ordinance at its next meeting.
“Stacey is liaison to the ,” he said. “It’s only fair to vote on it with her here.”