Walter T. Bergen Lighting Project to Be Put in Referendum on November Ballots
Voters will decide whether they want the borough council to pursue funding for project in November.
After debating the issue for months, the Bloomingdale Borough Council majority voted Tuesday to put the Walter T. Bergen School field lighting project out to voters in a referendum on November ballots and based on the response, determine whether the borough should seek funding for the project.
The council also voted to send a letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Program, which offered a loan to the borough to complete a restoration project at the field, explaining their intentions for the referendum and potentially forgoing the promised loan. The council, instead, would like to ask Green Acres if funding could be loaned to the borough so that it could only correct drainage issues on the field.
Prior to the vote, Recreation and Open Space Establishment (ROSE) Fund Advisory Board Chairman Ed Simoni presented the board's annual recommendations for the council, which included moving forward with the lighting project. The ROSE Fund Advisory Board, which is an advisory board that was created after voters approved it on a referendum, makes recommendations for recreation and open space projects in the borough. A portion of Bloomingdale taxpayers' taxes are designated to the ROSE Fund each year for these purposes.
Mayor Jon Dunleavy read a letter from Green Acres aloud at the meeting that was dated May 18, in which Green Acres indicated the borough had until June 30 to provide documentation that proved it would be moving forward with the project. The letter said that the borough has been granted multiple deadline extensions since November of 2003.
The council majority has expressed during several previous meetings that they feel the lighting project, which would cost about $394,000, is too expensive and that the borough should instead pay off existing debt instead of taking on another loan. But Dunleavy has argued that the money to pay off the loan for the lighting project would be coming out of the ROSE Fund, approximately $23,000 per year for the next 20 years at a 2 percent interest rate, and that the taxpayers would not be paying any additional money toward the project.
Some drainage issues on the field have also been discussed, but the mayor has said that if the borough were to take advantage of the Green Acres loan, there would be enough money left over from the lighting project to also take care of the drainage.
"There is enough money combined to do the drainage and the lights," he said.
Council President Linda Huntley said Tuesday that she had been informed that the borough would be able to use the Green Acres funding to take care of the drainage issues, but that the borough did not need to also complete the lighting project in order to receive funding. Dunleavy argued otherwise.
Huntley said she thinks that the council should be applying for grants to pay for the project instead of taking out a loan.
"Why is it that Bloomingdale has to always pay for things when other towns get grants?" she asked.
But Dunleavy said that the borough has looked into grants for the project and has been unsuccessful. Still, Huntley said she is hopeful that if the voters do approve the project by referendum, the borough is able to acquire grant funding.
"You can't leave tonight hoping that because you will not get it," Dunleavy said.
Former Borough Attorney Joe McMahon, who was sitting in for Borough Attorney Mark Semeraro who was absent Tuesday, said that even though the council majority wishes to ask Green Acres if the loan could be used for drainage repairs, "that letter does appear to have a pretty firm deadline."
"It is very likely that this funding source is gone," McMahon said about if the council were to not reply with the documents showing interest in the lighting project by the June 30 deadline.
Dunleavy said that he will wait to hear about Green Acres' response to whether they will still grant the borough funding for just the drainage repairs. If not, the mayor said he would like the council to reconsider providing documentation showing the borough's interest in the lighting project during the council's next meeting on June 14, but Councilwomen Huntley, Jo Ann Pituch and Linda Shortman said they would not be interested in continuing to pursue that option with Green Acres.