Pay Attention

We haven't heard anything about it for a long time but pay attention! On the agenda at Wednesday's meeting of the Highlands Mayor and Council is a brand-new bond ordinance, this one for $9.5 million. Certainly, that should be enough to get taxpayers interested enough to zoom into the meeting and ask questions. The money is for construction of a new borough hall. While there is no doubt one is needed, although admittedly, the borough has functioned for a long time without one. But when it comes to burdening the taxpayers with another $9.5 million in debt, it's time some really hard questions are asked, and really hard, difficult questions should be answered. If there are any of these questions that are too difficult for the governing body to answer.... remember some elected officials have asked for a 'grace period' because they're so new on the job.... then maybe even now, after all this time, it's still time to put off a bond ordinance until the questions are answered and the residents know everything that will be entailed. For starters, here are a few that the public is entitled to know more about: This bond ordinance solicits $9.5 million of a $10 million appropriation, where does the $500,000 deficit come from? This bond ordinance solicits $9.5 million of a $10 million appropriation, what documents outline the construction cost estimate this $10 million represents? How much of this $10 million is set aside for cost overrun? How much of this $10 million is set aside for construction management? Is there any firm identified as the construction manager, or is this role going out to a competitive bid? What firm prepared the construction cost estimate? Understanding that the Borough has a services agreement with Middletown, are there any anticipated building or building inspection fees that will have to be paid to Middletown, and if so, are those fees included in this allocated $10 million? What is the total cost to taxpayers of or for this $10 million? What is the estimated sq. ft. cost of this proposed new building to include both hard and soft costs? What impact to taxpayers, i.e. an increase or decrease of any tax, including property, sales or other instrument, is anticipated by the issuance of this bond, or the construction of the proposed Borough Hall is there? Hurricane Sandy happened in October of 2012, some 8 years, 3 1/2 months ago, what has been the cost of delay from building in 2013 until today? Is the borough receiving, or has it received any state or federal funds from Sandy relief to finance any construction of a new borough hall? Have any applications been made for any state or federal funds for the construction necessary because of Hurricane Sandy? What is the time frame for construction? What are the plans for the several buildings that has been used in the absence of a borough hall for eight years? Will it result in more costs or more income? Is this the final design for the building and does it really face the backyard of the house on the corner of Valley Avenue? If they mayor and council cannot answer even one of these questions, then in the interest of not wasting any more money, perhaps they should get the answers, then reassess the situation based on having all the facts.


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