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Far Hills Mayor Responds to Roads Maintenance Issue

Far Hills Mayor says negotiations will continue for road maintenance agreement with Bernard Twp., but borough has been paying fair share.

Editor's Note: The following is Far Hills' Mayor Paul Vallone's commentary regarding the Bernards Township Committee's decision on Feb. 12 that Far Hills should begin paying a greater percentage of the cost of maintaining Douglas Road and a portion of Mine Brook Road shared by both municipalities. The border for the towns runs down the center of both roads, officials said.

To the editor,

February 15, 2013
 
Re: Road Service Agreement between Far Hills and Bernards Township: Far Hills is paying it's fair share.
 
I would like to address several issues raised concerning the recent issue that has arisen concerning the Interlocal agreement of shared services between Far Hills and Bernards Twp. with respect to the maintenance of Minebrook Road and Douglas Road. This agreement between the municipalities goes back to sometime in early 1923 and was reaffirmed in 1993.
 
Late in 2012, the Far Hills Council received a notification from Bernards Township that effective January 2013, the agreement between the two municipalities wherein Far Hills pays 15 percent of the cost of snowplowing, salting and minor repairs and Bernards Twp pays 85 percent, would no longer be honored and a 50/50 percent split would take effect. This notification came as a mandate without any offer to discuss or substantial reasons as to why the changes were to take place, keep in mind that this is a unilateral increase of over 300 percent.
 
At my suggestion, a meeting was requested wherein Mr. Bruce McArthur, then Mayor-Elect Carolyn Gaziano representing Bernards Twp. met with myself, Councilman David Surks and Clerk Dorothy Hicks of Far Hills. At that meeting, the disparity between the size of our respective municipalities and budgets were discussed but I offered an increase in the percentage that Far Hills would pay which all thought seemed fair and reasonable.
 
Subsequently, I was notified that the full Council of Bernards Twp. voted against the proposal and demanded a 50/50 split or they would plow, sand and repair only their side of the roads in question, again a unilateral decision made with no good faith offer of negotiation.
 
Mr. McArthur is quoted as saying that Far Hills has paid  a little over $12,450.00 and the impression is that that sum is from 1993. This is not from 1993 but rather over the last two years alone and if based on population, our residents paid almost $13.45 per resident while Bernards residents paid $2.86 per resident during this time frame for these services, not to mention other issues including road usage, number of vehicles and housing developments along these road which have not been factored in; Far Hills IS clearly paying its fair share!
 
To be clear, Far Hills, will continue to pursue efforts to negotiate a fair share arrangement with Bernards Township in an amicable manner, but shared agreements must benefit both municipalities with regard to services provided and price paid for those services.
 
The ultimatum by Bernards Twp. that effective Feb. 27, they will plow only their half of Minebrook and Douglas roads as these roads are divided longitudinally and are the boundaries between our two municipalities, and in 60 days stop service to Sherwood Farms Road under a separate contract in my opinion is totally irresponsible.
 
I and the Far Hills Borough Council are considering all possible options concerning this issue, rest assured that our residents and their safety are foremost in our minds and we will have alternative plans in place should they be necessary if an amicable agreement with Bernards Twp. cannot be reached.
 
I look forward to hearing from Mayor Gaziano in the very near future so that we can continue amicable and productive negotiations and resolve this issue so as to benefit the residents we serve.
 
Sincerely,
 
Paul J. Vallone, MD
Mayor
Borough of Far Hills      

Todd Edelstein February 19, 2013 at 05:14 AM
Just because Bernards Twp is larger than Far Hills, doesn't mean that more residents from Bernards use Mine Brook Road or Douglas Road. I never travel down those roads regularly and more than likely I made a wrong turn and ended up on them by mistake. And how about the people who don't live in either Bernards or Far Hills? Maybe Mayor Paul Vallone should sent a bill to Bedminster for their resident's possible use of the road. Wait, both towns are ran by Republicans. In that case, they normally push user fees, so maybe both towns should put toll booths on both ends and use the toll money to maintain those roads(note sarcasm).
BRResident February 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM
What each town pays should have nothing to do with the populations of each town. If two homeowners had a shared fence separating their properties, would it be right for one of them to assert that he should pay less than half the cost of maintaining that fence just because he has less people living in his house? Of course not. Dr. Vallone's offer to pay more (but not half) of the maintenance cost is just an attempt to keep in place an arrangement that amounts to an unjust windfall for his town. Bernards Township should stand firm on its request that the costs be shared equally.
Ed Coury February 19, 2013 at 12:57 PM
What the Mayor of Far Hills is proposing is a consumption/usage tax. His point is that most of the benefit of the plowed road is enjoyed by residents of Bernards Twp. If more residents on those streets live or originate from Bernards Twp. then its only FAIR that the majority of the cost is allocated to that sector of the community. Would you like to pay a portion of your neighbors sewer bill just because you have a bigger house or make more money? The agreement has been in place for 10 years and in that time development in Bernards has far out paced Far Hills. You're getting a deal.
BRResident February 19, 2013 at 02:48 PM
So you are sugesting that Basking Ridge should really be paying MORE than 85% of the cost, given that its population has grown more over the past 10 years? Wow. I disagree with the consumption/usage argument and hope that Basking Ridge stays firm on this. Perhaps the time has come for Basking Ridge to cease such shared arrangements with Far Hills and let Far Hills go its own way on such matters.
Joe Metelski February 19, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Far Hills should be re-consolidated with its parent, Bernards Township.

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