24 Jan Bond Ordinance Hearing Highlights 01_23_2020
Dear CTWWW Members and Friends,
The special meeting for the public hearing on the $1.7M bond issue was held on Thursday January 23rd at borough hall.
Mayor Fox did not attend the meeting and there was no explanation as to his absence. His absence did cause a challenge to his team, as the other borough commissioners were clearly and embarrassingly uninformed on the topic.
The meeting was yet another lesson in patience, as the majority of questions asked of the borough commissioners could not be answered. In addition, there was not an introduction of the project or an attempt to explain the need or scope of the venture or most importantly, the impact to the taxpayers.
Sadly, it was once again evident that a decision regarding the bond issuance was being made with little thought or understanding of the impact to the homeowners of West Wildwood. Even when asked to postpone the vote until more information could be collected and explained, the commissioner’s responses were those of leaders who remain disengaged from their taxpayers.
The following three topics were asked by meeting attendees in the public comment section and are summarized below.
1. Why do we need to replace the sewers on 6 blocks of Poplar Ave?
We were able to surmise from the discussions that the Borough had a series of engineering inspections done on the sewer system, including video to understand the cause of increased sewer flows.
The inspection showed the manholes are stable but settlement of the pipes between the manholes caused bowing and separation of the pipes from the manholes. The result is groundwater seepage onto the sewer system. The extent of this issue was unknown by the commissioners.
The only thing we were able to conclude from the discussions is there is a lot more sewer replacement to come in the near future. The current project is being fast tracked to take advantage of a $156,000 grant from the State that requires the project to be under contract by August. The series of actions required to meet that contract is why they needed to get the vote to approve the bond immediately.
2. How old is the sewer system we are replacing?
The section that is planned for replacement was done in the early 1990’s, less than 30 years ago. The technical challenge we should pose to the engineering firm is to design a system that will outlast the current system. Replacing the current system with the same design will only result in similar failure after 25 years. The financial challenge we have is part of the current system was paid for with grants (Major thanks to Donna Fredrick and Carl O’Hala who were instrumental in getting the island street raising projects grants) and some was financed with 40 year bonds. If we can only get 30 years out of a replacement system we should probably consider 30 year bonds or else we will continue to pile debt on debt for the next generation of taxpayers.
3. What is the financial impact to the taxpayers?
The financial impact to the taxpayers is not yet understood which is concerning to say the least. The commissioners are not sure if the payments on the bond will be in the general budget or the sewer authority budget. This is very important as there is a significant difference to individuals depending on the answer. Any cost that falls under the general operating budget will be assessed to taxpayers based on their property assessments. Those in higher value properties will pay higher percentage of the cost. However, those senior citizens who have a freeze on their taxes will not be impacted since the State absorbs the cost for any tax increase. Any cost that falls under the sewer authority will be assessed equally assessed on each sewer connection. That will impact every taxpayer in a single family home equally. Multi Family homes will see the same increase for each living unit.
Other topics were addressed in the meeting:
1. Resolution 2020-020 was approved to authorize the monthly payments on the Ferentz lawsuit for the year 2020. In the past they were approved each month but that is an issue when the monthly Borough meeting is later in the month causing the payments to be delinquent after the due date of the 10th.
2. The resolution for the COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) planner was cancelled due to the bids all being too high. A negotiation will be conducted and a new resolution introduced later.
3. Resolution 2020-021 was approved to put the capital budget in place for the Poplar Ave project.
The next regular monthly borough meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 5th at 5:00 pm. Please mark your calendars.
The CTWWW Advisory Council