Category: Government

Alvaro Medeiros: Township Needs to Anticipate Impacts of New Developments (TAP Series)

Alvaro Medeiros: Township Needs to Anticipate Impacts of New Developments (TAP Series)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros for Week 2.

Week  Question:

  • What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

Ideally the Township master plan should anticipate emerging trends and the likely impacts that can be expected. Housing costs have risen in our area increasing the appeal of Berkeley Heights for many homeowners and renters driving interest in developers and builders to invest in housing units here. What’s evident to them should be reflected in the Master Plan and should in turn guide the Township leadership in development of a sound capital plan for road repair, road signage and traffic lights, etc.

With almost 1000 units approved for construction, we can be sure that there will be more traffic, more children attending our schools and more commuters accessing the trains and buses. Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin and I have advocated for a strong private-public partnership to improve the downtown and this too applies to adjusting to and accommodating growth.

We need to facilitate pedestrian not automotive traffic and should increase and enhance our street crossing sites similar to what New Providence has done. Similarly, school children should be encouraged to walk to school and the walkways made available and improved for that purpose. We should better manage the use of roadways by trucks limiting the roads used and also limiting the number of garbage trucks and enabling residents to self serve their recycling needs with downtown recycling facilities.

We should improve the access of commuters to trains and buses. For example, we could utilize the senior citizens bus in the morning and evening as a commuter jitney to and from the train station.

Finally, we must be open to and encourage ideas from our residents about solutions to the township. We should adopt Councilman Poage’s proposal of a grant writing committee to ensure we leverage all funding resources and we should have a Township planning committee to generate affordable ideas to the inevitability of change that we can be sure to expect in the Township.

Original TAP article can be found here

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Our current Town Council has missed too many opportunities for free money from the county and state, to help repair and maintain our roads, recreational facilities and library. Plus, our municipal taxes are increasing at a rate higher than that of our county and Board of Ed Taxes. Berkeley Heights can’t keep going down this road. Here are some facts you need to know:

ROADS

RECREATION

LIBRARY

TAXES

Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros: Week 1 TAP Question

Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros: Week 1 TAP Question

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Democratic Township Council Candidate Alvaro Medeiros for Week 1.

Week 1 Questions:

  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing Berkeley Heights are at this time?

I am running for town council so that I can make a positive impact on the direction this town takes. I have worked at AT&T for over 25 years and before that at a small private manufacturer where I worked my way up to running their western operations. I am at present an Associate Vice President at AT&T. Through hard work, persistence, and performance, I have delivered results in two separate careers and succeeded in different business environments. I am confident I can make a difference for good in Berkeley Heights where I have been a Boy Scouts volunteer, active in the GL Marching band and in fund raising activities. I am disappointed in what I see in our Township today and I think we can do better. I want to help drive that change.

I am very confident of my abilities and a capable and effective leader. I succeed through anticipating, planning, listening, weighing the alternatives and deciding conclusively. I believe in the value and importance of collaboration with diverse thinkers and doers. Berkeley Heights is residence to a wide array of experts whose input we should welcome and whose skills I hope to leverage for the benefit of our community.  I value inclusion and participation and am not convinced that our current leadership does. Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin and I have campaigned by reaching out to people at their homes or where it’s most convenient and listening – that’s where some of the best ideas come. Susan Poage and I did last year and it will be key feature of our leadership if elected.

The volume and scope of large residential developments that have been approved almost all at once and the associated impact – ranging from construction activity concentrated in a relatively compact area of town to the impact on Township infrastructure – is going to be a major challenge. On top of that, we have launched a costly municipal complex with an increased debt burden that will reduce Township options to absorb so much demand on municipal resources and budgets. We cannot continue to exceed budget caps and burden growing families or those on fixed incomes with ever increasing tax bills. Strict fiscal discipline, sound capital planning and sound administration are in critical need in our Town as evidenced by the damage and debris we struggled to clean up for weeks following late winter storms this year. We need creativity of which I have seen little evidence –and Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreements with developers are not very creative and have negative consequences. My fellow candidates, Angie Devanney and Stephen Yellin, and I have devised out-of-the box solutions to raise funds aimed at addressing these challenges and while we will not promise a quick fix our search for solutions will be widespread and relentless.

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Facts Matter: We Can’t Keep Going Down This Road

Our current Town Council has missed too many opportunities for free money from the county and state, to help repair and maintain our roads, recreational facilities and library. Plus, our municipal taxes are increasing at a rate higher than that of our county and Board of Ed Taxes. Berkeley Heights can’t keep going down this road. Here are some facts you need to know:

ROAD

  • Current Administration has missed 2 major road grants in 2014 & 2017 (an average of @ $200,000 per year)
    • Source: State of New Jersey Department of Transportation

RECREACTION

  • Current Administration has missed 3 recreation grants – 2010, 2011, 2013
    • Source: Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office
    • New Providence and Mountainside received $300,000-400,000 more than Berkeley Heights from 2010- present.

LIBRARY

  • Under the current administration, Berkeley Height has received the lowest amount in library grants in all the County for the past 3 years.
    • Source: Union County Public Information Office

TAXES

  • Municipal taxes have increased 18.19% in the last 5 years; Board of Ed taxes have increased 13.22% and County taxes have increased 11.25%
    • Source: Union County Tax Assessor’s Office
  • Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for developers will cost the Board of Education around $225,000  – and growing
    • Source: Union County Tax Assessor’s Office
    • PILOTs pay 0% taxes to Board of Education
    • PILOTs pay 5% to county government
Facts Matter: How Much will the Municipal Complex Raise Our Taxes?

Facts Matter: How Much will the Municipal Complex Raise Our Taxes?

One of the biggest – if not the biggest – issues in this election is the new Township Municipal Complex: its cost, its tax impact, and how we got here. Many residents have expressed their concern about the $32 million price tag (which is already $4 million over the initial budgeted amount) and what that means to their pocketbook. While the Municipal Complex plan is already set in stone, it doesn’t mean we should reelect the leaders who brought us to this point. It also doesn’t mean the project should be on auto-pilot. It needs strict oversight to ensure more cost overruns don’t occur, and that we maximize savings wherever possible.

If elected, we pledge to:

  • Manage this project much more responsibly going forward.
  • Hold the developer, EPIC, accountable to ensure the project is finished as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure the project comes in as much under the $32 million budget, as possible, since any savings will be split between the township and the developer 50/50.
  • Weigh wants versus needs – if there is any room to scale down, we will.
  • Listen to your concerns and consider your feedback before decisions are made.
  • Use every means of communication to ensure residents are not only informed but understand what is taking place.

How We Got Here

The current Mayor stated publicly in his letter to residents on July 25th, 2018, that the average household will see an annual tax increase of $179 to pay for the cost of the Municipal Complex. The Town Council, however, has claimed that the “actual” tax increase will only be $3 for the average household. How is that possible?

The argument made by the Council is that they will reduce the $179 tax increase by using anticipated revenue from financial agreements made with developers of other housing complexes to be built in the next few years. These agreements, called PILOTs (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes), give 95% of the taxes collected from the development directly to the Township, whereas a normal tax bill would see roughly 20% of the revenue go to the Township.

There is a big “if” with this approach, however: it assumes the developer will complete the project as proposed, and that they will successfully generate the level of revenue assumed in the PILOT agreement (in this case, having the units filled by new residents). But as of the beginning of October 2018, none of these housing developments have even broken ground! With all the unanticipated events that may impact developers, there is absolutely no guarantee that Berkeley Heights will receive the tax revenue the Mayor and his running mates are banking on.

The Power of ‘No’

The “$3 tax increase” is an estimate, not a reality. When it comes to paying for the Municipal Complex, the only hard fact we know is that it will cost $179 per year for the average household. It is not fiscally responsible to wager on a hypothetical source of revenue to lessen the tax burden. This is why Councilwoman Susan Poage voted “No” on spending an additional $4 million – because it was critical that we make every effort to responsibly manage the project. Plus, taxpayers only received notice of the exact dollar amount of the increase hours before the public hearing to approve the extra $4 million.

The Township is committed to completing the Municipal Complex, as we are. We agree we need a new facility. But we cannot elect the same leaders and expect them to avoid making the same mistakes. Nor should we forget the tangled process that got us here, including having a Council member vote on parts of this project despite having a clear conflict of interest, as noted by the courts.  Other Council members abstained because of their conflicts.

This is your town, and your tax money; we will take our role as your representatives seriously.

 

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

Facts Matter: Roselle Mind and Body Project

From Angie Devanney, Mayoral Candidate

A number of residents have asked about inaccurate information about me being shared by my opponent’s supporters. Since I agree with them that Facts Matter, here are the facts about one piece of misinformation:

The Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) entered into a shared agreement with the Borough of Roselle to construct a Mind and Body complex consisting of a community center and early childhood school. The UCIA sought a Public-Private Partnership to realize cost savings, eliminate change orders that occur in traditionally publicly bid projects through a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) and provide lowest possible financing rate.

This is the same process used for the Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex whereby EPIC Construction was selected and awarded the project and a Developer’s Agreement was signed. The developer does not determine the scope of the project.  The project price is based on architecture (rectangular building vs unique shape), programming (how much square footage for offices, meeting rooms, etc.), materials used (wood vs. brick, granite vs. marble, etc.) and how the building is outfitted (technology, furniture, etc.).

Programming is determined by the Governing Body. In Berkeley Heights, it is the Township Council who made the final decision about the scope and size of the project therefore setting a framework for the cost of the Municipal Complex. In Roselle, the Borough Council and Board of Education made the programming decisions including the choice of a developer.

My husband, George and  I were not the developers on the Roselle Mind and Body Complex, but rather served as part of the professional team for the developer, as listed in the official Request for Qualifications submission to the UCIA on January 16, 2016 by the developer. Contrary to the misinformation being spread by my opponent’s supporters, we had no involvement with any other aspect of the project, including any decisions made about the cost and management of the project.

Residents deserve a campaign focused on facts and issues that affect our community, not relying on misinformation and fear-driven innuendo.  I urge Mayor Woodruff and his team to join Stephen Yellin, Alvaro Medeiros and me in committing themselves to that kind of campaign.

 

Facts Matter: Straight Talk from Angie Devanney

Facts Matter: Straight Talk from Angie Devanney

Stephen Yellin, Alvaro Medeiros and I have pledged to run a campaign based upon facts and the issues voters are most concerned about in Berkeley Heights.  It was our hope that the Mayor and his team would do likewise, and we publicly asked them to join us in making this pledge.  Instead, it is clear they have decided that it is better to “go low, not high” and attempt to cast unsubstantiated questions about my professional life.

Here’s the truth: Mr. Woodruff, as an attorney, knows full well that it is illegal for any governing body member to personally benefit from doing business with the Township.  To be perfectly clear, my company does not, can never, and will never do business with the Township of Berkeley Heights.

Further, if successful in my election, I will disclose all of my clients to the Township Attorney, who determines when and if any conflicts arise. This has hopefully done by the Mayor with regards to his law firm’s client list as well as all other members of the governing body. Additionally, I will resign from any volunteer organizations which I serve on so that no one can ever question my integrity or intentions to serve and protect the taxpayers of Berkeley Heights.

These practices would give the public some comfort, knowing that our Governing body was acting in the best interests of taxpayers and not some outside organization.  Had this been current practice, residents might not be questioning Council votes regarding downtown redevelopment and the new Municipal Complex. This includes how a member of the Council, over which the Mayor presides, was determined by the Courts to have voted while having a clear and undeniable conflict of interest. Since the facts matter, I encourage residents to read what a New Jersey court judge just released on this project with regards to conflicts of interest.

As my running mates and I have gone door to door across Berkeley Heights, our residents have told us they want to hear more about the issues and challenges facing us.  Our taxes, our community, how their voice is heard and the roadmap for the future are at stake this November.

Instead of distractions, let’s talk about responsible fiscal management.  The price tag of our new municipal project has already increased from $28 million to $32 million before a single shovel was put in the ground.  This cost could spike even more, and the resulting tax burden to residents is entirely dependent on unguaranteed money from unrelated development projects.

Let’s talk about smarter development, with nearly 1,000 new housing units being planned to be built by 2020 and their impact on our already neglected roads and our ability to provide recreational opportunities and sports fields we can all be proud of.

Let’s talk about reaching out and making sure we realize and leverage all grant funds and shared services offered by the County and State government.

And, let’s talk about making sure ALL of our residents are made to feel included in this community, and encourage them to get involved in government by utilizing social media and partnering with community organizations to keep them informed.

Engaging in campaign tactics that are intended to distract from these issues has no place in Berkeley Heights politics.  Stephen, Alvaro and I will remain committed to talking about how we can improve our town, together as neighbors and as one community.  We believe it is time for Change We Can Agree On for Berkeley Heights to move in the right direction!