Jul 27, 2014
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Heights Passes $1.3M Capital Buys Bond Ordinance

Third times the charm for major equipment buy

Heights Passes $1.3M Capital Buys Bond Ordinance

It took three tries, but the town's public works and police departments will finally see their wish lists granted--courtesy of the borough council's GOP majority.

Their victory does not come without controversy, however, as the governing body's two Democrats in attenhdance on Monday, Mayor Frances Enright and Councilman John Brennan, Jr. voiced disgust over the GOP's greenlighting of the $1.3 million bond ordinance that will ultimately bring new public works vehicles and police department tools to Spring Lake Heights.

To purchase the vehicles, an automated license plate reader for the police, new computer software for town hall, and to improve various borough roads, the council will bond for $1.24 million to be paid back over about 13 years.

The GOP members successfully motioned to table the controversial, much-debated bond ordinance on Sept.12 when GOP Councilwoman Sara King was absent. The cost of individual items, particularly the public works vehicles, has been a bone of contention between the GOP and the Democrats since an earlier, more expensive version was first introduced in late July.

Brennan and fellow Democratic Councilman Tom Vorbach have often referred to the items requested in the ordinance as a "wish list" for public works and the police departments.

On Monday, Brennan motioned to table the ordinance again because Vorbach, the only other Democratic council member, was absent due to an out-of-town business meeting.

At the urging of the GOP members, Brennan had agreed to table the measure during the Sept. 12 meeting out of courtesy to King. He asked that the decision be held off until Vorbach could be present.

"The body then took a position that the entire council should be here," Brennan pointed out. "I'd like to see the same courtesy extended to Mr. Vorbach."

Brennan appeared visibly disgusted when his motion died for lack of a second from the council's four GOP members.

"The ordinance passes, obviously," said Enright, apparently annoyed by the 4-1 vote along party lines.

Because of the amount of money called for in the measure, the council needed at least four affirmative votes--a two-thirds majority--to pass the ordinance.

Monday's meeting was the first since late July when all four GOP members had been present.

Both Brennan and Vorbach had been critical of the bond ordinance because of the expense that will be calculated into future municipal budgets as debt passed onto taxpayers in town. The two Democrats had specifically balked at taking out a 13-year loan for the desired public works vehicles with average expected usefulness of 15 years.

At $620,790, the two new garbage trucks, megahauler, back hoe, and front loader requested by Public Works Director Art Herner are the most costly items in the bond ordinance. The council will bond for $589,750 to purchase the vehicles.

The GOP members justified their support for the ordinance by pointing to the town's aging sanitation trucks and the need for updated, additional snow removal vehicles.

The original bond ordinance introduced on July 25 called for the borough to spend $1.43 million on capital purchases including the public works vehicles and police equipment. That measure died at the council's Aug. 15 meeting it did not garner a two-thirds majority vote from the council's five council members--three Republicans and two Democrats--in attendance.

The revised ordinance placed before the council on Sept. 12 did not include a $120,000 line item for improvements to Ocean Road Park. The council has since decided to apply for Monmouth County open space funds for that project.

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