This is what we like about Little Silver Mayor Robert Neff, Jr.: Patch asked, he answered.
This is the second half of Neff's answers to the over 15 questions Patch readers posed a few weeks ago. And he took it seriously. The mayor made calls, checked facts and answered each and every question fairly and eloquently.
Did you catch You don't want to miss the lowdown on Little Silver's sidewalks, what types of services the borough is sharing with other municipalities and most importantly, what's up with Gift Winds?
Temporary Traffic Lights:
- How much overtime will be used by police officers along with the temporary lights?
Neff: Our police chief, Dan Shaffery, advises that none is anticipated (this is a Monmouth County project), but cautions that, as always, unforeseen circumstances may arise where overtime may become necessary. We will keep an eye on that as the project progresses.
- The 2010 Comparative Statement of General Fixed Assets showed that the borough of Little Silver owned approximately $10.8 million in land and a further $4 million in improvements. Could you please provide a list of all the properties the borough owns, their current market value and the estimated amount of tax ratables that the borough forgoes annually by owning these properties instead of allowing them to stay in private hands? (for example; The Women’s Club, The Board of Ed house, 466 Prospect Avenue, etc.)
Neff: First, let me try to address the specific properties this writer raises.
The has been a great town resource, with innumerable civic groups and private entities paying fees for its use. We recently reached an agreement with the YMCA, for instance, who will be using it for an extended period to the benefit of local residents. Charities and groups such as the PTO use it for fundraisers that benefit the entire town. There are no plans to sell it. The questioner is probably more qualified than I am to estimate its current market value, which is whatever the market will bear.
The Board of Education building on Willow is part of a large tract that includes the wooded area and trails surrounding it. It was purchased with state Green Acres money many years ago, and accordingly must be preserved under the state’s Green Acres requirements. We have a lease with the Board that is beneficial to both the town and the schools.
And the Prospect Avenue property adjacent to will become a parking lot, adding much-needed parking spaces downtown. We worked with local residents who suggested a buffer in front of the lot, and changed our plans to provide that.
With respect to your general question, let me put it in context. Borough owned properties extend from those you name, to the ball fields, to the Parker Homestead, to larger parcels of open space, much of which was donated over the years by those who wanted to see the land remain open and undeveloped. For instance, we just used grant money to put extremely well-received walking paths through one large donated tract, and now have a huge continuous greenway through which our residents can walk, away from traffic and development. We are in the process of providing trail maps (created by volunteers) for posting in these areas. I am not inclined to take the enormous amount of time to go lot by lot as this questioner asks, and am certainly not qualified to provide to you current market values and hypothetical lost tax income of each lot. If there is a particular property you believe the borough should not own, and should sell, please raise that issue with the Borough Council, who makes those decisions. If I believe you are correct, I will support you. And vice versa.
Proposed Condo Project
- What is the latest on the proposed condo development near the train station? At first the condos were being developed at around $800K and now perhaps half that value. It will change Little Silver forever if this moves forward. Is there anything else that can be done to stop this development near the train station? Can the residents buy this property as "Open Space"?
Neff: I don’t know that this questioner’s sales figures are accurate, but this question, as well, requires some context.
To recite the history of this proposal would take more time and space then anyone has. Suffice it to say that, many years ago, the Borough Council rezoned this property to accommodate a townhouse development that would 1) provide some of our share of moderately priced housing, as required by state law; 2) give the borough some control over what is put on this lot, rather than leaving it open to less attractive development; and 3) preserve, as a condition of approval, as open space the large lot adjacent to the proposed townhome units.
The Planning Board some years ago approved the project, after many public hearings in which some objectors’ concerns were accommodated. However, the developer did not go forward with it. Originally, the proposal was age-restricted as approved. Under a law signed by Gov. Corzine, however, the developer was allowed to again approach the Planning Board last year to seek removal of the age restriction, which the Planning Board approved (as required by the law, according to the Board’s counsel), with some conditions.
My understanding is that the project remains viable, but we have had no official communication with the developer or a time frame. Even if it moves forward, a large part of that tract will remain as open space (one of the conditions of approval). There are no plans by the borough at this time to purchase the lot that is to be occupied by the housing units should the developer proceed.
- Regarding police vehicles, can we: reduce idling time, replace a cruiser with a bicycle and encourage foot patrols?
Neff: Police idling time is an issue raised by the Environmental Commission in the past, and is the subject of our Green policy. That does not mean that police cars never idle, however, and our police have explained that engines need to be ready to go full throttle, and that computer equipment inside the vehicle needs to be powered up and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I am at Borough Hall frequently and have not noticed excessive idling, but if there is a particular instance of idling that you believe can be reduced, please let me know. I know our officers don’t leave their cars running unless there is a reason behind it, and that our policy prohibits it.
We have also occasionally used foot and bicycle patrols in the past. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are not effective for patrolling, or for enforcing traffic laws and responding to emergencies. Police are first responders, so if you have one of the two officers on duty at any particular time on foot, you reduce the likelihood of a quick response to an emergency. The alternative is to hire additional officers or incur overtime in order to have foot or bike patrols. Our choice has been to avoid that expense and keep the officers on the road.
- Along the side of the post office there is a fire zone, I think it is, or no parking zone? But cars insist on parking there, creating a dangerous situation for people walking across the street. I've almost been hit twice by cars zooming around the corner. Can this zone be more clearly marked as "NO PARKING", and enforceable with a ticket? Perhaps it will take a ticket to stop this before someone gets hurt.
Neff: I have taken a photograph of this location and e-mailed it to our traffic officer for review, with your comment, and asked that parking violators be ticketed. Thank you for raising this issue.
Neff: Lastly, I’d like to add a couple things. One questioner raised a communication issue. We have an up-to-date Web site, which I would ask that everyone use. We have a quarterly newsletter, and are looking into the cost of putting out monthly supplements. And we have an alert system using e-mail addresses and text capabilities, which I encourage everyone to subscribe to (it’s free – just check the Web site). All our meetings, of course, are public, and meeting times and locations are published and on the Web site. If anyone has specific suggestions for how to improve our communications, please let us know – we do make every effort to get timely information out.
Paint the Town Pink-Stripe
Also, one anonymous questioner decried what he or she thought was the use of our public works employees to paint a pink line down the center of Prospect in the downtown area in support of the multi-town Paint the Town Pink campaign. In fact, the Paint the Town Pink campaign itself paid for the labor and materials to paint that stripe. No borough workers or funds were used. Our local businesses and many residents should be commended for their participation in the event, which raised money in support of the fight against breast cancer. Little Silver was proud to support the effort (though without spending tax dollars).
Street Lights, School and Municipal Debt
On a street light question, please call borough hall at 732-842-2400 to advise us of any unlit streetlights, and we will notify the utility, if necessary. And on a question about the school debt, I have to refer you to the school administration. The Board of Education is an entirely separate entity from the municipal governing body, with its own budget and financing ability. With respect to the municipal debt, it consists of a two-percent Green Trust obligation for the Sickles Farm Park Development originally incurred in 1990. That obligation has an open principal balance of $145,934.43, extending to 2023. Otherwise, our capital improvements (road improvements, some major equipment purchases, and the like) are financed with 0% in-house BANS (bond anticipation notes), with an open balance of $3,215,443.00 extending to 2021. There is no cost to servicing BANS, which are considered temporary financing (bonds are permanent and can therefore be costly). A bond anticipation note is issued for a period not exceeding one year and may be renewed every year, but must be paid not later than the tenth anniversary date of the original note. We pay down ten percent of the total note from year to year, so that no individual BAN amount per ordinance is older than ten years. The debt amount changes from year to year based on pay-down amounts (in which case there is a decrease) and new ordinances for capital improvements (in which case there is an increase). I am pleased to advise that there was no increase in our BAN obligation this year.