I have vetoed Ordinance #14-1653, appropriating $2,200,000 for 3.63 miles of road repairs.
In my opinion, this ordinance does not accurately reflect the purpose and intent of the 2012 roads referendum passed by the residents and is not in their financial best interests.
My findings and reasoning are as follows:
BY APPROVING THE $10 MILLION REFERENDUM, THE PUBLIC WAS SENDING THE MESSAGE FOR US TO PAVE ROADS.
In 2012, at the suggestion of our Borough Administrator, the Borough Council presented a $10,000,000 referendum question to the voters:
Should the Borough of Bernardsville undertake a major road reconstruction and improvement project over the course of the next ten years at an estimated aggregate cost of $10,000,000, of which approximately 95% will be financed through the issuance of bonds or bond anticipation notes?
The following statement interpreting the nonbinding public question shall also be placed on the ballot:
If this question is approved by the voters, the Mayor and Council will consider adopting an ordinance or ordinances appropriating approximately $10,000,000 in the aggregate over the next several years for a major road reconstruction and improvement project, and authorizing the issuance of bonds or bond anticipation notes to finance such appropriation. Any anticipated tax increase required to fund the projects will be outside the 2% CAP. If this question is approved by the voters, the governing body will authorize the debt in a fiscally responsible manner which will minimize the impact on taxes, while allowing the project to be completed on a timely basis. The governing body will initially use the 2010 Pavement Rating/Road Reconstructions Costs Study, prepared by the Borough Engineer, as updated, to determine the specific projects that will be undertaken, however, no final decisions will be made until public hearings have been held and the governing body has received input from the residents of the Borough.
The Borough Administrator’s intent in recommending the $10 million was to allow the Borough to play catch-up on our road repairs. In other words, come as close to current on the repair of all our roads as possible. The $10 million number was the figure thought needed by the Borough to do the job in a fiscally responsible manner. At present, we are even more behind on road repair. Instead of focusing on getting our roads paved, we are more concerned about drainage, curbing and sidewalks. If money were no object, one might agree with this philosophy. However, money is an object of concern. We are falling behind on our road repair at a continuing pace. We need our roads paved quickly and efficiently.
The Public Works Committee’s proposed 5-Year, $10 million, road plan, calls for approximately 60% of the $10 million to be spent on drainage, curbing and sidewalks, while only 40% will be spent on paving. After five years and $10+ million, only 35 of our 160 roads will have been addressed, covering only 14.92 of our 53.25 miles of roadway. This equates to 28% of our roads at a unit cost (cost of repair per mile) of $697,386.05/mile.
In the first year, under Ordinance #14-1653, drainage and curbing would cost $1,090,000. Paving would cost $930,000. 3.83 miles of road would be completed in the first year. As will be shown below, this is unacceptable.
In my opinion, the public did not vote in the referendum for more drainage, curbing and sidewalks. I believe the public voted to have their roads paved, period. By that I mean the taxpayer had an expectation, rightfully or wrongfully, that his or her individual road would be paved as a part of that $10 million. Not a simple pothole repair, not a nice curb job or sidewalk installation (which, by the way, the taxpayer would have to maintain). In voting for the referendum, I believe the taxpayers want their roads to be smooth. It’s common sense. Believe otherwise, believe that the taxpayers really wanted more drainage, curbing and sidewalks for their $10 million and we are making a huge mistake.
YES, DRAINAGE WORK ON OUR ROADS IS NECESSARY
Please do not misunderstand me. Drainage work is needed for our roads. During my term as Mayor, 47% of the road work performed was drainage work. The 53% majority was milling/paving or reclaiming (a more extensive milling/paving).
However, noting that the public wants to see what their tax dollars are paying for, a more realistic target for the work needed would be as follows: drainage improvements 40%; reconstruction work (basic road overhaul) 40% and resurfacing 20%. Curbing, except where absolutely needed, and sidewalks are unnecessary. Besides, sidewalks can always be added at a later date.
PLEASE READ THE REMAINDER OF THE MAYOR'S STATEMENT HERE