In response to Borough Council’s introduction of Ordinance 2012-7 providing for the preservation of a portion of the existing Dinky right of way, Township Committee has voted to reaffirm the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) originally agreed upon by the University, Borough, and Township for the creation of an arts and transit neighborhood.
At the Committee’s Monday evening meeting, Township Attorney Edward Schmierer opened the discussion with a report on “the fiscal and legal impacts” of the ordinance, noting that it “effectively amends the official map of the Borough.” The next step for the ordinance is a Planning Board recommendation for or against it, to be delivered in 35 to 40 days.
“Clearly, a decision will have to be made, not too far in the future, whether the Borough will exercise its option to buy,” said Mr. Schmierer. “Everyone needs to be aware that the potential cost to the municipality could be quite significant,” he said. Among the costs would be reimbursing the university for new engineering plans.
Mr. Schmierer answered “no” in response to Committeeman Lance Liverman’s question about whether the Township had been notified about the introduction of the Borough’s new ordinance. “We were notified just as the public and the University were notified,” he added.
“The ordinance is bad public policy,” said Township mayor Chad Goerner, describing it as “an attempt to contravene an agreement reached by three parties over a long period of time.” Noting that it was not in the financial interests of residents of the Borough or the Township, or, eventually, the consolidated municipality, Mr. Goerner concluded that it’s “a risk not worth taking” and suggested that Township Committee “send a clear message that we have no sympathy for it.”
In reaffirming the MOU, Township Committee members agreed that any decision that has a financial impact on the Township should be discussed in joint session, “negotiated in good faith,” and passed by both municipalities.
The Borough came in for additional criticism in a discussion about the Personnel Selection Committee for the new municipality. The Borough has requested that the committee be comprised of three members from each of the existing governing bodies. Mr. Schmierer noted that since three people constitute a quorum for Township Committee, Personnel Selection Committee votes would be binding for the Township under the Open Public Meetings Act. Borough Council would then have the ability to ratify or reject the Committee’s recommendations. The inclusion of a citizen member in place of an elected official on the Committee would not be a satisfactory solution, and an added complexity is the question of what happens when two individuals vying for the same position respectively request public and private hearings.
It was agreed that a recommendation be made providing for two representatives from each municipality on the new committee, a solution that has worked well in the past.
In other actions at Monday’s meeting, Township Committee approved the adoption of a conflict of interest policy for municipal employees, and agreed to reschedule the 2012 municipal budget public hearing for Monday, May 21.