The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Independent candidate for Hillsborough Township Committee Judd Mandell.
As I knock on doors, attend local organizations meetings, speak to neighbors, and walk into Hillsborough businesses, the message is clear. Residents and business owners want the town to eliminate wasteful spending, reduce tax burdens in this flailing economy, and be more transparent about the town’s vision. These issues are consistent with state and national issues, and Hillsboroughs' residents, business people, and leaders should be able to give input and provide collaborative solutions. We are all responsible because we are all in this together. It is time for the Township Committee to look beyond the artificial boundary they have created to solve our future needs, while concentrating on today’s biggest challenge, the economy.
Business owners are accurately concerned that the completion of the bypass will be delayed until 2018 which has a rippling effect on the empty storefronts. Uncertainty impedes progress. Hillsborough faces great challenges and the Township Committee cannot maintain the status quo, nor can it rest on its laurels. Our leaders need to cooperate with neighboring communities and private industry to provide comprehensive plans that allow Hillsborough to thrive in the coming years. Our infrastructure is aging and was created before newer technologies have been developed. The increased burden of additional homes, medical offices, "green" villages, and industrial parks can overload the current capacities and have reverberating effects on our watersheds, power grids, sewers, and ecosystems. We need to find solutions that will carry us into the year 2013, 2023, and beyond. Short term fixes simply are denials that it takes strong communication for the public to understand the intention of the town center and the bypass. Small steps in the right direction though, all count when they are focused and centered on a viable long term solutions, which integrate social, political, economic and ecological factors.
The GSA depot is a big issue that the townspeople feel that they are in the dark. In November of 2008, the Hillsborough Township website quotes then-Deputy Mayor Frank DelCore as saying, "It is, therefore, imperative for Hillsborough taxpayers that the (GSA) redevelopment plan be approved, so the Township and County can move forward on making an application.” Then Mayor Anthony Ferrera stated, "Our goal is to minimize the cost of the clean up on Hillsborough, so approval of this redevelopment plan is crucial to the taxpayers." Back in December of 2008, Hillsborough released a statement that financing had been approved for the "Largest open space preservation project in Hillsborough History" as quoted by committeeman Bob Wagner on the Township website. Hillsborough approved a $6.9 million allocation from the Open Space Trust Fund as well as a $2.1 million bond ordinance that was authorized. DelCore noted in that same article, “Authorizing debt is not something that this Township Committee takes lightly. In this case, however, it is an appropriate because there is an excellent business rationale, as well as an exit strategy that makes sense.” The total cost including money from Somerset County totaled $15,735 million. The township took steps to involve the public by creating a GSA Advisory Committee and had meetings up until October of 2010. The final sentence in the article sums it up, "No action was taken at that meeting." Hillsborough residents want to know, what happened and how much does it cost us by not taking further action? Environmental concerns seem to be impeding progress, where do we stand today?
Some residents along Triangle Road near 206 were upset that the sidewalks were never completed to connect to the Promenade shopping center. One resident commented that they moved in 5 and a half years ago and had been told that the project was shovel ready. Children, bikers, and pedestrians are forced to cross the busy Route 206 and walk along the grass. One of the properties they walk by has been abandoned for the past year and the grass is over 15-inches tall. Residents reached out to the town to find out what the delay in the shovel ready project was. One gentleman was told that the town had trouble contacting the residents and wasn't getting responses from them. He replied to them "I have never been called, emailed or notified by mail, and neither have my neighbors." This is an example of the frustration of residents with the lack of transparency and broken promises.
The Township Committee needs to align their actions with core values, set simple, attainable short term goals that lead our town towards a prosperous and sustainable future. We can partner with nearby towns, public and private entities, and apply for available grants. Hillsborough deserves better planning, management of our open spaces, more transparency and independent thinking. I don't care about politics or party lines, my focus is on our future.