TOMS RIVER – A bond ordinance borrowing money for road repair, vehicles and more passed at a recent Township Council meeting even though it failed the first time around.
The total money being spent is $14,700,510, which includes the town’s down payment. The ordinance borrows $13,999,000 to pay for:
- $7,819,000 for road paving, township-wide drainage, bulkheads, the 2023 Roadway Elevation Project as well as the Downtown Toms River Loop Road Project.
- $4,385,000 for vehicles including dump trucks, a street sweeper, mower, roll-off truck, wheel loader, a tandem, pick-ups, 10 police cars, an ambulance, and other equipment and computers.
- $1,795,000 for improvements to various municipal offices and parking lots.
The first time this bond ordinance came up for a vote, Councilmen Justin Lamb and Daniel Rodrick voted against it. Councilmen Matthew Lotano, Kevin Geoghegan, Joshua Kopp, and James Quinlisk voted for it. Councilman David Ciccozzi was absent. Township Attorney Anthony Merlino said “Bond votes require a super majority,” which would have been five ‘yes’ votes. Because of that, there were not enough votes to pass.
Although all seven members of the Township Council are Republicans, there is a split. Lamb and Rodrick often vote together, and the other five often vote together.
The point of contention in this bond is that some of the money is going toward the “downtown loop.” Lamb and Rodrick are against building up the downtown, but the other five are for it.
The second time around, Rodrick suggested splitting the ordinance so that he could vote in favor of things like police cars, but still vote against the downtown work. Lamb seconded his motion.
Township Attorney Gregory McGuckin said that the ordinance, by law, can’t be split. So, the only thing the opposition could do was table it, which means to hold off on the vote until another meeting. Rodrick and Lamb tried to table it, but the rest of the council disagreed. Ultimately, the bond ordinance passed, which means that the town will be borrowing the money for the above projects and purchases.
Lamb said that his opposition to the downtown project isn’t a campaign stunt, since he’s not running for anything this year.
Rodrick, who is running for mayor in the June primary election, said he’s heard a “tremendous amount of discontent” about the high rises planned for downtown Toms River.
The downtown redevelopment will include several large, new projects. The most controversial is 285 apartments in two towers that will have restaurants, retail, and a banquet hall/wedding venue. The complex will also have parking available.
However, the downtown loop part of the bond is not connected to this, Lotano said. It will fix roads downtown and help provide a safe evacuation route. This work will happen before the planned apartment buildings come in. The federal government provided $5.6 million toward this project, but the town has to pay $1.5 million as part of their share. That’s the amount that’s in the bond for this project.
Lotano said that he’s talked to people who are not happy with Lamb and Rodrick voting against roadwork throughout their own districts.
“We pay taxes for services. The bond ordinance provides the ability to provide those services,” he said. “The rest is just a political stunt.”
Towns traditionally have a certain amount of debt as they purchase items. Local Bond Law states that anything being bought with borrowed money must have at least five years’ worth of use. Towns pay off the debt annually, sometimes getting better bond rates years later. The philosophy behind it is that while it may cost more with interest in the long run, the annual payments are able to be made more easily.