United Water Company Property, The Fiscally Responsible Solution (Letter to Editor)

A letter to the editor regarding the United Water property from Council Candidate Michael Putrino and Councilman Austin Ashley.

By Council Candidate Michael Putrino and Councilman Austin Ashley

The United Water Company (UW) gave New Milford four months - from January 1, 2011 to April 30, 2011 - to buy their property. The Mayor and Council ignored this opportunity and allowed it to expire without discussing its purchase or informing the residents. 

We believe New Milford should purchase the property. This will insure that the people of New Milford – and not a developer – will determine the destiny of our borough.

Many good reasons supporting the purchase of the property have been discussed in various forums but one that has not been addressed is that buying the property is fiscally responsible.

Buying the UW property is fiscally responsible because it will allow us to create a flood mitigation plan that will work in conjunction with our current initiatives at the Hirschfeld Brook and the Hackensack River. This will increase our ability to reduce the damage inflicted by floodwaters and decrease the risk of loss of life and property to New Milford residents.

We could also build a much-needed multi-purpose field there, the cost of which would be less than the cost of the proposed field at the Middle School. In fact, the cost of the field on the UW property could be funded entirely by future open space grants at no cost to the taxpayers! We will work with the Board of Education, SOD and Field of Dreams to make this a reality. It makes sense for our New Milford Knights to compete next to the high school building.  In addition, relocation of the high school football field to the UW property would also provide for the current field to be utilized for additional flood mitigation and retention.

The rest of the UW property should remain open space: a forest with park benches, grassland and plant life. Such open space is an attractive and rare commodity in Bergen County let alone in New Milford and would increase the beauty of our borough as well as our property values.

Allowing the development of the property would not be fiscally responsible. Although the idea of additional tax ratables from development might be enticing, those ratables would be more than offset by increased expenditures for our schools, public safety, infrastructure maintenance, increased flooding as well as our reduced quality of life and lower property values. It would end up costing New Milford more than it received.

In order to buy the property, we will pursue all sources of funding including Blue Acres, NJ Green Acres, Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund, SWAN and the Riverkeeper. These sources could secure a large portion of the purchase price over a two-to-three year period. We must also continue to engage all of our county, state and federal representatives to join our cause. Purchasing this property at the lowest possible cost to our residents is imperative.

Buying the UW property is the fiscally responsible course of action for New Milford and we will work to make it happen.

Michael Putrino, Austin Ashley

Ulises October 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM
That's good to hear. Let's hope the current application runs its course, denied, United Water doesn't extend Hekeminian their contract and there are more votes on the council to make this a reality.
newmilford1967 October 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Hey guys keep up the good work.Make this happen and dont stop thinking about tomorrow.
Bucktail October 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Where have I heard that exact proposal before?
BSquared October 16, 2012 at 01:24 PM
This sounds like the perfect plan. But like anything else that actually makes sense in this town will be flushed down the drain.
miriam pickett October 16, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Thank you both for your clear headed analysis and solution to the proposed development. Our current mayor and coucilmen Robalino and Colucci have no understanding of what it takes to be real leaders. They are limited by their intransegent position regarding rezoning the property rather than attempt to defeat Hekemian's insane plan go develop this property. Tomorrow night, SOD is sponsoring a candidates night at the NM Middle School. The questiins will not be limited to thosr about the development. We hope we have a large turnout of folks who care about every aspect of our community. Bring your questions and become familiar with all 4 candidates. SOD has not endorsed anyone or party and remains non partisan. Though some political signs have been positioned next to our signs to give the appearance of endorsement, that is not the case.
Lori Barton October 16, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Thank you for realizing that maintaining open space is actually the most fiscally responsible action. Additionally, the advantages to the quality of life are immeasurable. Residents of New Milford need to understand just how important this election is. We can not afford (literally) to Have Mayor Subrizi being the deciding vote in case of a tie. She doesn't seem to understand that her vision of building ShopRite on the UW property is undesirable from all aspects. It's time to send a message loudly and clearly at the polls. NO REZONING. STOP OVERDEVELOPMENT. KEEP NEW MILFORD GREEN.
Tim McElroy October 16, 2012 at 03:06 PM
ITS NOT FOR SALE....... Ask Frank DeBari why he didn't buy it!! ??
Ulises October 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It's not for sale but if the application expires, because there's deadline in the current contract, we can purchase it through grants for a lessor cost than building at the middle school just like they did in Garfield (tanks to help our flooding problems too). Our pass and current mayor missed this oppurtunity but there will be another chance and it's not a "gamble", nor is this ShopRite a "done deal"...
Anthony October 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM
This is great lip service from political candidates. People do need to realize a few things. First, Putrino had a term on the council already and if I am not mistaken was part of the team that changed the master plan to put the affordable housing units on this property, which puts the town at a disadvantage when and if this goes to court. In addition, his party had years to acquire the property and made no attempts to do so, that have been made public. Secondly, Ashley has recused himself (as has Berner) from the vote by hiring his own lawyer so is not able to vote on this and in effect has no official say in what happens. Basically Berner and Ashley cancel each other out vote wise. Finally, they all talk like there is no CONTRACT for the developer to buy the land. That is the biggest stumbling block to all of these political promises. Both sides can say anything they want, but there is a legal contract in place and I have not seen any side saying how they are going to get around that.
miriam pickett October 16, 2012 at 03:49 PM
It is for sale and Hekemian is trying to buy it. If he fails it may be open to New Milford again to purchase it and there is more than enough money in grants to pay for the property and move the field to where it belongs. If Mayor Subrizi achieves a majority on the council we will lose any hope of keeping this as public property. She is opposed to buying this property even if it won't cost New Milford taxpayers a penny. The availability of grants to pay for this land was not a secret when she didn't respond to United Water's offer to sell it to us. The participation of environmental groups to purchase this land was not a secret when she sat by and allowed the property to go into a private contract. Mayor DeBari did want to purchase this property. I believe if he had been mayor when we had the 4 month window of opportunity, we would not be in this situation now. He would have used the available grants and environmental money and bought the property.
Anthony October 16, 2012 at 05:52 PM
So let us take a look at the situation from a voting standpoint: Right now we have the republican mayor and two republican councilmen for the development and bargaining with the developer, each have 2 years left on their terms. We have two democratic councilwomen, that each have 2 years left on their terms, one has voted with the 3 republicans that are for the development to potentially rezone the property, basically giving the developer a potential lifeline. The other has come out against the development and not negotiating with the developer. We have two additional councilman both up for re-election, both have recused themselves from a vote due to retaining an attorney and the other citing potential professional conflicts of interest. They in effect cancel each other out, BUT if they are each elected to new terms, are they allowed to enter back into the vote??? If Ashley, drops his legal representation can he vote? If Berner all of a sudden does not have a potential professional conflict , can he vote? Two huge questions that need to be answered independently, not from the candidates themselves. cont.
Anthony October 16, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Cont. So assuming that Duffie continue to side with the mayor and two republican councilmen, whoever is elected does not matter, the mayor has the majority. If Duffie, can be counted upon to vote against the development and opposite the mayor and two republican councilmen, then it gets interesting. Putrino would need to get voted in and must vote against the developer. That gives you 3 v. 3 divided by party lines. What is the tie-breaker? I do not know? Then you have the three remaining candidates all who say they are against the development, but two of them have made it so they cannot vote. Rebsch has stated that he is against the development, but is Republican and if he flips, once elected, the Mayor gets her majority and the developer wins. Quite a conundrum, what have I missed?
Lori Barton October 16, 2012 at 06:22 PM
It's not for sale right now. But it could be very soon. And that's when we need to be ready with a majority on the council who want to buy this property (with grant money) and prevent development. The property wasn't offered to DeBari while he was mayor. It was offered while Subrizi was mayor and her only dream is for that land to have a ShopRite. In my opinion, that's a nightmare, not a dream.
Bucktail October 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Low and Behold - Here's where I saw it: Flood Mitigation Plan, by Howard Berner right here on the patch.
miriam pickett October 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Anthony, Randi has publicly said she is against the rezoning.
Howard Berner October 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thank you Michael and Austin for supporting my plan.
Ulises October 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Councilman Berner, it’s a great plan and I'm happy to hear all candidates are on the same page on this issue. We can only hope the Mayor and the entire council would realize this is what most people want in town.
miriam pickett October 16, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Yes, we have alternatives. Now can we get all candidates to pledge not to support rezoning?
CB October 17, 2012 at 12:39 AM
According to Anthony: "Rebsch has stated that he is against the development, but is Republican and if he flips, once elected, the Mayor gets her majority and the developer wins." So, has Peter stated that he is against this development? He's not supposed to but if he already has, then all questions regarding this are fair game at candidates night. And he's done on the zoning board.
Anthony October 17, 2012 at 01:05 AM
CB good point. It may have been assumed that Rebsch is against this because he is Berner's running mate and submitted a letter to the editor of the twin boro news with Berner, but it did not state opposition to the development. So if tomorow he cannot say what his position is, then those who are against the development should not vote for him, as if he is elected and votes along party lines, the mayor will have her majority


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