Hamilton Street Improvement District Budget Approved By Council

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Hamilton Street Advisory Board executive director Vince Dominach (foreground) and board president Pat Gianotto listen during the April 14 Township Council meeting.

The Hamilton Street Improvement District’s amended $72,000 budget for 2015 was approved April 14 by the Township Council.

There was some dissent expressed by business owners, who said they were frustrated over 10 years of contributing to the SID without any tangible returns.

Also dissenting was Mayor Chris Kelly, who cast the lone “no” vote for the budget. Kelly said he doesn’t agree with “a special tax for one part of town when other parts of town do not have that.”

“I don’t see any benefit for this whole organization being there, or the tax being there,” he said. Kelly was referring to the Hamilton Street Advisory Board, a board comprised of business owners and residents in the SID tasked with revitalizing the area.

(For more on the advisory board, click here.)

Money for the budget comes from a special assessment levied on businesses included the Hamilton Street Improvement District, which runs roughly from Franklin Boulevard to the New Brunswick border.

The council at it’s March 24th meeting approved the original SID budget and also introduced the amended budget.

The new budget includes $20,000 for a landscaping/tree plan, $5,250 for flags, poles and brackets and $8,500 for new lids for waste cans. Some of the items were included in the previous year’s budget but were not purchased.

The amended budget originally totaled $157,750, but $87,000 was used from the SID account’s surplus to bring the budget to the same level as the 2014 budget.

Several business owners expressed frustration over the their contention that they have been assessed each year for the past decade and have seen nothing come of it.

Township Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) noted that the council is funding the hiring of two new police officers specifically for the business district.

“This is something that is recognized as being a beginning,” he said.

Township Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said that in the past, the township was not very involved with the revitalization of Hamilton Street. But the dissolution of the old Hamilton Street Special Improvement District’s District Management Corporation – and the council’s assumption of that role – has changed things, he said.

Vassanella reminded the audience that the new framework is on a short leash.

“By the end of the year, if we can’t show significant improvement or at least that we’re on the path, we will make the decision on whether to keep it going to shut it down,” he said.

“We’re kind of just at the gate when it comes to this new approach,” Vassanella said.

“Cleanliness and safer are the starting points,” Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) said. “Unless we have demand (from customers), you will not be happy and you will not make money from your investments.”

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