You Asked, Mayor Buccellato Answered
From train station improvements to day laborers near Quik Check, you asked, Mayor Buccellato answered
Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato agreed to sit down with Patch and answer the questions that you sent in. Here are his answers, in no particular order.
Q: Is it possible to have garbage removed more often from the municipal lot, especially during the summer? It seems like the garbage is constantly full and it seems like people are using it for their personal garbage.
A: The council has been looking into this issue. We are revising our ordinances to increase fines to any person, business, or entity that utilizes borough property or dumpsters for their private use. We're hoping that this will deter people from placing their trash on borough property or in our dumpsters, which will help prevent it from becoming too full.
Q: What is the status of the 2012 road program? What roads are going to be completed for the program?
A: We are currently reviewing what roads to need replacement or repaving the most. This review is coupled with reviewing the debt service in the borough and the cost involved with the potential road project. To date, we have not finalized the roads selected for the 2012 road program.
Q: What's going on with the dams on Ravine Drive and Main Street? Will they be repaired?
A: The Army Corps of Engineers initiated a dam repair project in the 1970s. The Corps got involved due to a rash of dam failures in the south. Because of these failures, the Corps started to review all dams in the country. Based on 100-year-storm occurrences, the Matawan dams were classified as hazardous.
The ownership of the dams has always been in question. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, because of their position of safety and the environment, got involved and concluded that the ownership of dams was to be a joint one between the municipality and the county. Even after several attempts to explain the borough's position on ownership, the DEP still ruled that it was a joint ownership, and therefore the cost would be placed equally on the county and the borough.
More recently, through several meetings with the county, a request for qualifications was issued and responses were received. The county and the borough are separately ranking each responder. Once selected, the project will then go into a design phase, which should take between eight and twelve months. Then, bidding will take place for the repairs and construction could possibly begin in late 2013 or 2014.
The design documents will also include plans for detouring, in order to minimize the impact to the residents during construction. The construction process is estimated to take anywhere between ten and fourteen months for each dam.
Q: What is the borough going to do about cleaning up Main Street? Flowers and mulch around the trees is nice, but what about replacing the faded parking and "Welcome to Matawan" signs with new ones? What can be offered to business owners to get them to clean up their storefronts? How can new businesses be drawn to open up on Main Street? Can we repave public parking lots?
A: Your suggestion about Welcome to Matawan signs is a good one and will definitely be looked into.
Main Street has always been a priority to me. One of the problems we face is that the businesses do not own the buildings; they are owned independently by another party. Currently Councilwoman Donna Gould and I are looking to start a restaurant week which we hope will bring people not only to Main Street, but to the many restaurants in the borough. Matawan has a number of fine restaurants that offer a fantastic selection of food and atmosphere.
The problem with attracting new businesses is that they need support of the community once they open. There have been several businesses over the years that have opened and then closed because there is a lack of patronage. What we need to do as a community is support the restaurants and the other businesses that are on Main Street, and over time word will get out that Main Street is a good place to establish a business.
As far as repaving public parking lots goes, any infrastructure improvement has to be looked at in the broader picture of roads that need to be repaved. Although the parking lots may need repaving, there are streets that are in considerable disrepair and must be addressed first.
Q: There is a noticeable increase in the amount of day laborers gathering in front of the Quik Check on Main Street. What are Matawan's plans to address this currently and in the future?
A: This is an issue that has been around for years and it's not only Matawan, but every municipality throughout the country. They are all trying to address this. The problem is that it's a federal issue and it's extremely difficult to handle at the local level. When individuals trespass or loiter on a private property, the owner of that property must request the municipality to disperse them. Without that request, the hands of the borough, or any municipality, are tied.
Q: Why not combine police stations? One less chief, one less building to maintain, fewer cars needed. The two townships are small and the cars often overlap areas.
A: Although combining police departments would appear to be simple, the township and the borough have two different employment statuses. Aberdeen Township is a civil service town and Matawan Borough is not. There was a study performed years ago, but the issue that came up was combing a civil service department with an uncivil service department. Until the state addresses civil service it would be an extremely difficult merger to make or to see happen. The borough is working on creating shared services where possible. Matawan has agreed, along with Keyport and Hazlet, to establish a joint municipal court, which will be a cost savings for the three municipalities. And any cost savings to the residents is something we should all be looking toward.
Q: What are the plans for the area around the train station? It has so much potential and could be like Red Bank, with restaurants and antique stores and other eclectic shops. Why has this project been held up for so long?
A: State regulations have changed dramatically since the borough first started to look into redeveloping the area around the train station. We have now reactivated the process and are currently updating the designation of the area around the train station to comply with new state regulations. This is a slow process, one that has to be completed correctly to ensure any forward movement will not be questioned and delay the project.
The process was delayed in part due to the lawsuit initiated by one of the developers against the borough. After several years of litigation, the borough was found to have acted appropriately in its decisions regarding the selection of their developer.
The other factor, which has also slowed the process down, has been the weak economy.
Q: What's up with the parking concession at the railroad station? Is NJ Transit truly taking over the concessions there?
A: There's a misunderstanding about the parking lot at the train station. It is owned by NJ Transit. Matawan Borough has an agreement with NJ Transit to collect parking permit fees and do minor maintenance, like plow snow, in the parking lot. At no time did Matawan ever own the parking lots. NJT was, and I believe still is, investigating or looking into privatizing the operations of all of their parking lots in the state.
To date, NJT has not made any decisions on its efforts or desires to privatize the maintenance and operations of the commuter parking lots in New Jersey.
Q: Will there be any forward movement to obtain HUD housing for senior citizens and the disabled in Matawan? The only "senior" campus, located near Minisink Village, is privately owned, expensive and the property itself is aging.
A: Matawan is very limited in build-able areas to do any major development regarding senior housing. It is my desire that the train station redevelopment project would include a component for senior housing.
Q: Why are taxes so high?
A: I too am a tax payer and understand the concerns regarding high taxes. In Matawan, between 65 and 66% of property taxes are school related and the remaining 34 to 35% are for county and municipal functions. I along with the governing body have always been concerned about the taxes and every effort is made to cut cost without affecting services to the residents. One such effort was to combine the water-sewer department with the Department of Works, which eliminated a department head and was a cost savings to the residents. This is just one example of how, at the municipal level, we are trying to control expenses which will have an impact on your property taxes.