Madison Town Hall Meeting Focuses on Capital Projects
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 • 7:01am
MADISON, NJ – Mayor Robert Conley provided an overview of capital projects at the Oct. 1 town hall meeting in Borough Hall.
“We’re here to absorb input,” he said of the council members that attended the meeting. Conley pointed out visible improvements, such as roads, sports facilities and various buildings, as well as “projects we don’t see,” including sewers, water mains and electricity. He said storm water management is essential. “It’s not as noticeable as a new road,” he said, “but the people who live on the street will have dry basements.”
The Madison Recreation Complex has been a major project in scope, he said, with much of the work done in-house. Included were installation synthetic turf fields as well as construction management for storm water pollution prevention. The borough council, Recreation Advisory Committee and the Environmental Commission have all been involved in the process.
“We saved a lot of time and money by doing it ourselves,” Borough Engineer Bob Vogel said of the in-house commitment and only contracted out for the initial design. He said the borough is also applying for a state award to complete the project.
Discussion also centered on costs and bidding. “We’re bounded by state law in terms of specs. We have to appropriate the money before we bid it out,” Vogel said. Conley explained in terms of funding sources that if a bid comes in lower than what was appropriated; the excess money is available for other capital budgets.
Another source of income is the sale of assets, such as the Health building, 22 Orchard Street and 10 Maple Street. The issue of assessments came up, but that was discontinued about 15 years ago, Vogel said. “Many municipalities still do it,” he said.
Councilman Robert Catalanello described the Capital Project Review Committee which, he said, was a group effort. “Instead of departments jockeying for funds, we ranked projects in order of submissions and reached an agreement with the departments” Priorities were based on what was in the best interest of the borough. While the borough has a five-year plan, “we haven’t appropriated all the money,” he said. “It’s really a wish list.”
The councilman added the borough is taking precautions to see what other major construction could be going on with utilities, such as PSE&G, “We’re trying to get in front of it,” he said so that the borough doesn’t repair a road and then have it torn up for another reason.
Catalanello noted the Asset Management Plan “has been a fantastic addition to what we do.” He also urged residents to spend a day looking at the substations. “They’re well maintained,” he said of what is accomplished by the Department of Public Works. “They’re not living in a vacuum, but are there to help when there’s a disaster scenario.”
Vogel said. “With the Project Review Committee, we got all the utilities together and had one spread sheet,”
A number of residents had questions about the power presentation and the process for determining priorities for capital and construction projects.
Resident Patrick Rowe said he thought the method for alerting neighbors about upcoming meetings and projects was very helpful. Conley said that one person in a neighborhood has been designated to receive emails and notices and then passes them on to those who live in that area. Rowe also said, “We need a true picture. What does it take to maintain our infrastructure?”
Another resident said that infrastructure projects such as electricity and the water system are more essential than roads. “They’re nice when they’re paved, but they should be further down on the list,” he said. Another person brought up public health issues and safety.
Among other comments:
- Emergencies come first. What affects the town as a whole?
- Pay as you go.
- Do the worst first.
- Wholesale electric purchases.
- Stop borrowing, slow down.
- Do nothing that isn’t essential.
- Not many opportunities to borrow at a low rate.
- Set funds aside on a continuing basis; create a reserve fund.
- See where the money’s been spent and take a look back as we look forward.
Mayor Conley said communications between the borough council and the Board of Education have never been better. “Madison is well ahead of the curve on the way we approach projects,” he said and thanked the public for their comments and suggestions.
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