David Patriarca is not the only candidate on the ballot for Mayor of Pemberton Township, but he is the only candidate with the experience, knowledge and dedication to continue leading our town in the right direction.
Mayor Patriarca has been the only Mayor to present budgets that truly represent responsible spending, while requiring the same level of accountability from all who benefit from our tax dollars. That's just what he said he would do when he ran in 2006, and he upholds that today.
Mayor Patriarca is not afraid to make the tough decisions when it comes to the good of our Township. He has proven time and again to be the type of leader needed to guide our town to the future.
Prickett/Scull Statement: The Mayor Sues the Volunteers.
Since Mayor Patriarca entered office, he has worked to provide the most efficient fire and emergency medical services to our residents. The volunteer fire companies and the volunteer first aid squads have always shared their suggestions with the Administration on how this can be accomplished. It began in 2007 when our four volunteer companies provided Administration with a plan to purchase three new fire trucks and take older equipment out of service.
The next several years were difficult as Magnolia Road Fire Company, Presidential Lakes Fire & Rescue Company, Country Lakes Emergency Squad and Browns Mills Emergency Squad all struggled to keep a full compliment of members to meet the needs of their operations and the provision of services in Pemberton Township.
Country Lakes Emergency Squad became inactive for an extended period of time and the Company was unable to make payments on a large outstanding loan. The consequence was that the property had to be sold and the Company dissolved.
The Magnolia Road Fire Company continued to struggle with their membership; after various unsuccessful attempts by the Company and the Pemberton Township Fire Department to recruit new members, it was clear that they too would not be able to provide services to Pemberton residents. The Company charter members met with Administration and developed a plan to dissolve the organization and return all township equipment.
Presidential Lakes Fire and Rescue Company was unable to perform the emergency medical services (EMS) side of their operation as a result of members failing to respond to calls for service. Chief Maahs met with Administration and agreed that his members were not performing. He asked that the Township only reduce support to the rescue operation and allow him the opportunity to correct the issue. Administration agreed to reduce the EMS funding by one-half while Chief Maahs attempted to get his members to respond to more EMS calls. After another year of poor performance, the township was forced to eliminate financial support for EMS while maintaining support for fire suppression services. The Company agreed to return all township equipment pertaining to EMS service.
During this time, both Browns Mills Emergency Squad and the Pemberton First Aid Squad also struggled to get members to respond to service calls. Because these volunteer squads responded to less than 25% of their calls for service, the township expanded our contract emergency medical services with Lourdes Hospital to provide additional ambulance service for our residents.
Administration met repeatedly with both Pemberton and Browns Mills EMS both together and separately over a period of more than a year in an attempt to convince the two squads that consolidation of operations would strengthen the provision of emergency medical services their operation and create a more efficient operation.
Both squads rejected the idea of consolidation and expressed different views as to how to go forward. Pemberton First Aid Squad presented a plan to become a paid squad charging residents for emergency services and running Pemberton First Aid Squad as a private business. Browns Mills Emergency Squad insisted on remaining a volunteer squad supported financially by the township and donations from the residents as they had been.
Neither squad was able to provide Administration with assurance that they would be able to increase response rates or operate more efficiently. Neither squad was able to refute the management and operational benefits of consolidation. Ultimately, Mayor Patriarca put the welfare of our Township ahead of Politics. This ensured, between Lourdes and the addition of EMS duties to be performed by the consolidated Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company, public safety would continue at the highest levels in the Township.
Browns Mills Emergency Squad, Pemberton First Aid Squad and Presidential Lakes Fire and Rescue Company were all offered numerous times to join the new Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company. They decided that they would rather not provide services in our Township if it meant having to consolidate with Browns Mills and Country Lakes Fire Companies. Therefore, the Township was left with no option but to cancel their contracts and require the return of all Township equipment.
Presidential Lakes Fire & Rescue Company's decision not to take part in the consolidation prevents the Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company from using the fire house and locating our equipment in Presidential Lakes. Consolidation would have ensured that Presidential Lakes' recent history of poor service call response and active membership shortage would have been much improved. In addition, the plan was to provide resources for much needed repairs to the building.
The Township has contracted volunteer fire protection and emergency medical services with the consolidated Pemberton Township Volunteer Fire Company which now provides fire protection to our residents including the residents of Presidential Lakes. Woodland Fire Company continues to offer and provide mutual aid fire services as needed.
Administration requested that the remaining volunteer companies which decided not to continue to provide emergency services in the Township turn their assets over to the Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company or the residents of Pemberton who have funded their operations over many years. The assets were to be used by the Township's volunteer fire company for operations and equipment storage and the office of emergency management where our C.E.R.T. team would be assigned and to continue to provide emergency services to the residents of Pemberton Township.
Since Presidential Lakes Fire and Rescue Company, Pemberton First Aid Squad and Browns Mills Emergency Squad did not provide plans on how they would be able to continue providing emergency services, and refused to turn their property and assets back to the residents, the township was left with no option other than to file a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking all assets paid for with funds from Township taxpayers. The Administration believes the only two moral and honorable options that may be taken by these companies are (1) join the consolidated Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company or (2) if the members of these companies do not wish to serve our residents any longer, give the property to the Pemberton Volunteer Fire Company and let our active volunteers use the assets to serve our residents.
Prickett/Scull Statement: The Mayor Closes Train Station and Destroys History
The Township entered into a license agreement with the Pemberton Historic Trust which authorized the Trust to occupy the North Pemberton Train Station Building (#3 Fort Dix Road) for the purpose of operating a museum and welcome center. Over time a select group of Historic Trust members took it upon themselves to expand the project by using the Township's property next to the Train Station Building without first obtaining permission from the property owner, Pemberton Township.
The adjacent property was obtained by Pemberton Township from Conrail for the purpose of removing the rail system and creating a walking and bike trail as part of the national Rails to Trails program. With the help of many dedicated volunteers including the Pemberton Rotary a beautiful trail system was created.
Members of the Trust reinstalled rails on the trail and over a period of twelve years brought in eleven train cars, numerous rails, countless old rail ties and dozens of items unrelated to the historic use including rolls of razor wire onto the Township's property without authorization from the Township. Members of the Trust also took it upon themselves to conduct an amateur archeological dig on Township property exposing a large basement foundation to an old building without securing the site. The unauthorized action placed the Township at substantial risk of a lawsuit if anyone were to be walking on the property and accidentally fell into this large unsecured hole.
Mayor Patriarca began negotiations with then Burlington County Freeholder Bill Haines to convey the train station and adjacent Rails to Trails property over to the Burlington County Parks system to be included into Burlington County's larger Rails to Trail program. In exchange for the train station and trail property the County would give the Township the 11 acres between the Township Municipal Building and the old Buttonwood Hospital on PBM Road. Most residents assumed that the Township already owned that property because the Township and numerous Township organizations already utilized the property for so many great events. The Mayor felt it was important for the Township to secure the future of this property for our residents to ensure that the County did not develop it or even worse sell the property and prevent any further use by our residents.
There were safety and environmental concerns expressed by Freeholder Haines about the condition of the Train Station property. The Trust created what looked like a dangerous junk yard on Township property in what should have been an important link to the County's larger project. The County continued to be interested in the exchange but the property had to be cleaned up and safe for the public. The Township's Administration informed the Trust of the negotiations with Burlington County and the Trust was informed not to bring any additional items onto the property until the exchange with the County could take place.
With the County's plans to include the train station property into the larger Rails to Trails program it was understood by all parties that the property would still be accessible by township residents. The Township Council agreed to enter into an agreement with the County to exchange the properties.
Despite receiving direct communication from the Township not to bring any more items onto the property the Trust entered the Township's Rails to Trail property with a crane and a low boy tractor trailer without authorization and a twelfth train car was placed on the Township's property.
After almost two years of negotiations with the historic trust the Mayor offered to allow the trust to keep three rail cars on the property as a static display only with the condition that the Historic Trust provide the township with a scheduled timeline as to when the three cars would be restored, and the funding source to do so. Members of the Trust refused to agree to the Mayor's terms and went as far as yelling at the Mayor that all twelve trains were staying on the Township property with or without permission.
Unable to come to terms with the Trust, the Township went to court to request an order to have the Trust remove their property from Township property. The court agreed with the Township's position and appointed a receiver to sell all remaining items the Trust did not remove. After expenses by the receiver the Trust was paid the proceeds of the sale of the items.
Prickett/Scull Statement: Mayor Refuses to Fully Staff Our Police Department.
The Township Code states the following;
41-5 Composition of Police Department.
[Amended 6-6-2002 by Ord. No. 16-2002]
Within the Department there shall be a Chief of Police, who shall be the head of the Department, three Lieutenants of Police; seven Sergeants of Police; and a number of patrol officers not to exceed 46, to be appointed by the Mayor.
As the Township Code indicates, the only members of the Police Department with fixed numbers are ranking officers. The code lists a total compliment not to exceed 57 officers. This number was established by Township Legislators at the recommendation of Administrative Staff of the department to meet the needs of 2002. When asked today, the Chief of Police will undoubtedly tell you as he has the Mayor that a more realistic number would be closer to 75 officers.
As most would agree this number would increase the budget well beyond the 2% cap and more than our residents can afford. This does not mean that Administration has not been making every effort to increase the number of officers on our Police Department. This task becomes very challenging as we are a Civil Service community which sometimes prevents the hiring of the best candidate and opposed to the best test taker. Compounding this challenge is coordinating the hiring off officers with the availability of a police academy. In some cases, when the options of Civil Service Listings or academy availability are not in the best interest of our hiring process, the Chief of Police recommends to Administration to forgo the hiring until a new list becomes available, or we are closer to an academy opening. The Mayor and the Chief of Police will continue to work towards hiring the best officers to serve our residents and not just accept any applicant just to fill a vacant spot.
Prickett Statement: The Township Debt is over 30 million dollars
In 2007 the Township Debt was 25.6 Million Dollars. Since that time the township has made some large investments such as purchasing fire trucks costing more than 1million dollars, funding repairs for five dams at a cost of more than 10 million dollars, investing over 6 million dollars into our roadway infrastructure, upgrades to township parks totaling more than 1 million dollars along with many much needed capital purchases and upgrades such as trucks for our DPW, a new fuel facility and emergency generator system to allow services to continue during power outages and much needed upgrades to township buildings such as the municipal building, the Dominique Johnson building, BMIA building and Country Lakes recreation building all costing more than 1 million dollars.
Unfortunately large capital purchases are made mostly with borrowed funds. To refrain from doing so would only cost more down the road. With mindful control of our financial status and making decisions the directly address the issues the township has been able to accomplish all of these investments and more while only increasing our debt to 27.3 million dollar in 2014. Now that we have stabilized the threat of failure in some of our larger assets we can begin to focus on other much needed repairs such as storm water management and continuing with our roadway improvement program. The right investments that we make today will make the future much easier for our residents.
Public Perception: Taxes Are Too High and We Get Nothing for Our Tax Dollars.
For many years in Pemberton Township local officials would approve budgets that routinely increased greatly from one year to the next raising taxes while services were cut or if lucky remained the same. In 2007 we had just come off a 4 year 20% budget cycle increase of which Mayoral candidate Richard Prickett voted to approve. Source 2003-2006 township Budgets and Council meeting minutes. In 2007, newly elected Mayor Dave Patriarca was faced with the difficult task of putting the breaks on out of control budget increases. After a hard look at the budget and many difficult decisions made Mayor Patriarca and his team have been able to minimize budget increases to an amazing low of only 2% over an eight year budget cycle.
As a result of Mayor Patriarca's concerns of past wasteful government spending with little regard to the tax payer, today's budgets will allow us to stay in the homes that we love. Pemberton Township now manages our budgets in a manner that represents a moderate increase in taxes when needed without compromising services to our community
Scull Statement: Going to the State Health Benefits Plan Will Save the Township $500,000
Providing health benefits to township employees has always been a challenge for Pemberton Township. In past years, the Township has provided this service through private firms and paid a premium. Currently, the Township provides this benefit through a self-insured plan.
To switch to the state heath plan and provide similar coverage as required by contract would actually cost the township hundreds of thousands of dollars because of how the system works. When the Township changes plans, there is a two to three month billing cycle from the old plan that the township is responsible for and has not been calculated into the PBA's cost analysis promoting the change. So, who would be the real benefactors if a change took place?
Although there may be a time when the town could benefit by change, now is not the time. The only ones benefiting would be the police, who would make much smaller employee contributions towards their healthcare benefits than they pay under the township's self insured plan. The current benefits are provided by a contract between the Township and the police. If one party wishes to change a contract for their benefit mid-term, shouldn't the contract be opened and negotiated to allow the residents the option of benefiting from this change too?
Scull Statement: I'll work to help the township be business friendly.
The current ordinances and zoning laws in Pemberton Township are a part of the Township code. The Township code is the responsibility of the Township Council, which Scull is a representative of. Scull is not only in on the committee to review and make recommendations for change to our codes, she also sits on the committee that was to meet with our business leaders to make Pemberton a more business friendly town. After many years on both committees, councilwoman Scull has yet to make any changes through either committee to accomplish this goal. Are we to believe that by becoming mayor, where this authority does not rest, she will get this done?
Scull Statement: I Believe the Residents Need to Decide if This is the Best Form of Government for Our Community
The residents decided in 1990 to change to this form of government. Why would we now go back to a form of government where legislators are allowed to apply politics to daily operations, once again stopping progress in our town? Scull seems dissatisfied with our form of government, yet she is running to hold the position that she states should not exist.