Big-Ticket Budget Items Discussed At Council Budget Session

New vehicles and equipment for the township police and public works departments, improvements to parks and upgrades in software and hardware systems highlighted the Township Council’s second 2021 budget hearing on March 10.

The nearly three-hour session featured mostly capital improvement requests, the big-ticket items in the yearly spending plan.

The township wants to spend $2 million on its continuing road resurfacing program, with another $500,000 for “streetscape infrastructure,” which Township manager Robert Vornlocker said included things such as curbing.

Public works manager Carl Hauck said the list of streets to be included in the resurfacing program has yet to be finalized.

The township also wants to earmark $100,000 each to repair stormwater systems and apply crackseal to newly paved roads for added protection.

Speaking of water, the township wants to allocate $2.5 million to replace leaking water main, $350,000 to update water pump stations, $250,000 to replace large, old water meters, and $200,000 for an updated Water Master Plan.

The police department wants $280,000 for eight marked patrol Ford Explorers to replace its aging fleet, and another $200,000 to outfit cars with emergency equipment.

“These cars aren’t cute, they’re tactical,” Public Safety Director Quovella Spruill said.

The state mandate that police officers wear body work cameras is behind the department’s $241,000 ask for body cameras and tasers.

Spruill said some of the cost of the body cameras would be reimbursed by the state, but she didn’t know how much.

She said that the $241,000 is payment for the first year of a five-year program.

“We were able to get a 5-year plan so that we are not paying everything at once,” she said. “Throughout the 5-year plan, we will have the cameras replaced twice. The second year to year five is $136,000, and that includes redaction software, and cloud storage. Everything is included, there’s no hidden cost.”

Spruill said the department will be fielding patrol squads of 10 people – nine officers and a patrol sergeant. She said squads would overlap during shift changes, so she’s asking for 20 tasers to equip the patrol squads.

On the equipment wish list for the Department of Public Works is $200,000 for a backhoe to replace an aging unit, $85,000 for a brine trailer, and $45,000 for a pickup and trailer to replace an aging unit.

The township is also looking to finish up its park upgrade program, with $300,000 for new playground equipment at Rutgers Heights park, $240,000 for equipment at Dunham Lebed Park and $135,000 for new equipment at Kingston Park.

Hauck said that money allocated for teh East Millstone park will be used to compete that project, which was delayed due to the now-completed dredging of the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

The township also wants to spend $100,000 on various Americans With Disabilities Act improvements to township parks.

The township water utility was one of several departments experiencing steep hikes in software licensing costs: $17,643 over teh current year’s cost.

The township will also have to spend $100,000 to replace the door access systems on current buildings and the new youth center because the current one is outdated.

Another $450,000 is allocated for police department roof repairs and door replacement, court ceiling tile replacement, and boiler replacement for the police department.

Salaries and wages decreased from last year, Vornlocker said, because of the retirements of many high-earners in the police and public works departments, and their replacements by lower salaries, Vornlocker said.

Mayor Phil Kramer, Vornlocker and Council members reiterated their desire to not pass on to consumers hikes in water rates.

“This has been discussed at staff level, and it has been discussed at committee level,” Vornlocker said. “This is a year where we’ll feel a little pain on our end on the water utility.\”

“I would rather not inflict the pain on the residents,” he said. “We’ll deal with the decrease in revenue and the increase in cost, and we’ll put it in order so that by 2022 we’re on even ground.”

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