Highlands Borough Hall

Judging from what I’ve been hearing from Highlands taxpayers this week, many are eager to hear what the chief financial officer has to say about bonding nine and a half million dollars. May



or Carolyn Broullon has said the CFO will be present at the special meeting Tuesday evening at 7 to answer questions on the proposed $9.5 million bond issue for a $10 million bond to build that new borough hall on Route 36. Some people are frightened they are going to be paying taxes for a long time before the building is even finished. That’s because the architect’s website still stays it’ll all be complete within the next four months. Really? Residents seems to be armed with a lot of questions they really hope get answered before action is taken to raise their taxes for years to come. They’re asking what the impact on the present rate will be, when it will take effect, how long it will take to pay off this debt, how much more are they going to have to pay both in add-ons during and after construction as well as for furnishings and everything else needed for inside before the building can be used. One person who read the architect’s website said if Miller St. is the “landmark entrance” to the complex, why does it look like the front door, or entrance, faces a back yard on Valley Avenue? These are only some of the questions I’ve heard this week. Others are asking whether there will be a construction manager, one person who can oversee everything or is that all still going to be handled by the firm that designed the building. One person wondered whether the First Aid Squad was involved in the plans to move their headquarters up there, and for that matter, how are ambulances going to fare crossing Route 36 at say, 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July? “Hill” people say those motorists don’t ever leave the access road open to get downtown. Yes, the building is bi-level, but I feel certain the architect will explain Tuesday how that impacts residents with walking or climbing problems or if there’s need for an elevator or escalator. Has FEMA come back and looked at the situation again, or do they still think this is all the best solution they went with those several years ago? The Chief of Police will be there to answer questions as well, and again, I feel confident he’ll be able to produce figures and studies that will assure residents that those summer days when traffic is backed up for two miles on Route 36 will have no impact on how swiftly an officer can get to a call for help down in Waterwitch or at one of the restaurants along the water front. Folks who have lived on the hill for many years might have some horror stories of their own to tell on how difficult it was to get a patrol car from downtown to Mountain St. on a highway-busy day in August in the past. As of now, there’s no agenda posted for the regular meeting Wednesday night. Nor has there been any public advertisement for an executive meeting of the governing body between Tuesday’s public hearing and Wednesday’s regular meeting. Hopefully, that means Council does not plan on introducing the bond ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting, because that would certainly appear they weren’t taking into any consideration anything the folks have to say Tuesday night. Surely something in the $10 million range, particularly for a council that still wants time to get acclimated to their new positions, would take more time for consideration that the regular pre-meeting executive session Wednesday. I mean, we haven’t had a borough hall since Sandy, what difference could it make time-wise to take a little time to consider concerns or maybe even incorporate new ideas of the taxpayers?

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