UPDATE: Projects Under Scrutiny as Borough Seeks to Shore Up Surplus

Budget to be submitted to the state next month.

At the latest budget hearing Thursday night at Hartley Dodge Memorial, where department heads outnumbered residents, the Borough Council more or less set the figures for the final 2012 municipal budget.

The bottom line, according to Chief Financial Officer Robert Kalafut: A capital improvement fund of $1.365 million drawn down to zero, and a fund balance, or surplus, of $2.7 million.

Since a Standard & Poor’s analyst last week revised the outlook on Madison’s AAA credit rating from stable to negative, borough officials directed Kalafut to stabilize the fund balance.

“To protect Madison’s AAA rating, I want to reduce various fund transfers and stabilize the surplus at $3 million—pending the upcoming property revaluation,” he said.

In discussion of capital projects, repairs scheduled this year for Green Avenue have been cancelled.

Mayor Robert Conley said bids received for the project all exceeded the borough’s recommendations. He added Green Avenue is eligible for state funding, and that the borough should plan not to fix it this year. “In the long run we will have a partnership for funding,” he said.

Other budgeted funds for capital projects include $1.169 million for renovations to Hartley Dodge. But Borough Administrator Ray Codey told the hearing that contract claims involving the building’s heating and air contractor and architecture firm could be worth as much as $500,000 to the borough, although it is not expected to accrue until 2013.
Other budgeted capital spending includes:

  • 465,000 for the North Street pump station;
  • $332,000 for Phase II of Woodland Road repairs;
  • $538,000 for repairs to Pine, Cedar, Rose and Beech streets;
  • $250,000 for water mains at Academy and Division;
  • $250,000 to improve underground electric systems.

Among items for individual departments, Police Chief John Trevena requested $40,000 to upgrade the borough’s in-car camera system. He said the 10-year old system has paid for itself “many times over,” especially in cases of claims against police.

Fire Chief Lou DeRosa asked for $11,000, for the purchase of replacement of protective turnout gear worn by firefighters.

Conditioning of the synthetic turf fields—required every 400 hours of use to maintain the warranty—could cost as much as $30,000 if outsourced to a contractor, said Public Works supervisor David Maines. The MRC committee is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting next week.

Sanitary service came in for extended discussion.

“The North Street pump station is the number one repair project in the entire borough,” Councilman Rob Catalanello said. “If we don’t get it done [this year] we’ll be swimming in feces.”

Newly-retained Borough Engineer Robert Vogel said he wasn’t sure there was enough money for repairs this year, which he estimated at $435,000, up from $250,000 in Kalafut’s budget.

“Fine, then we can have an outbreak of cholera,” said an exasperated Catalanello.

Other planned spending includes $1 million for the Water Utility’s installation of automated meters across the borough’s 5,000 buildings, and $1.135 million for automated meters for the Electric Utility.

Near the end of the meeting, Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto made a motion requesting a review of all municipal supervisors’ job responsibilities. She said this would give the Council a better idea of who is doing what work, and whether taxpayers “are getting the most bang for their buck.”

UPDATE: In an email to Patch, Tsukamoto explained, "Over 55% of our municipal budget goes toward employee-related expenses. In the past few years, we have been very successful in reducing the costs through hiring freeze, attrition and replacing fulltime with part-time employees in our departments. I believe we are now operating with bare-bone staffing level, if not less, in our departments. I now would like to look at our supervisory positions and find ways to consolidate. Perhaps we can find savings and put the savings towards staffing the departments."

 The Council approved the motion by a vote of 4-1. Carmela Vitale voted against, arguing that the time wasn’t right for such an extensive review.

The state requires municipalities to submit an introductory budget document by March 9, or the next soonest meeting of the governing body, scheduled for March 12.

DidUReallyJustSayThat February 17, 2012 at 09:50 PM
It would be great to have meters that can be read automatically, but was there a financial justification noted for spending over $2.2M to replace the existing ones? And if these project have a payback within a reasonable period of time, why not borrow the money needed to do them and apply the savings to pay down the principal and interest rather than short change other needed capital projects that don't have an ROI?
dave carver February 18, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I appreciate Councilman Catalanello's comments regarding the North Street pumping station. For my wife and I, its NOT just a possibility; it was our reality. The hurricane last august resulted in the storm sewer and the sanitary sewer colliding in the middle of the night. When we woke up the next morning, the first floor of our house was filled with sewage as our toliet turned into "old faithful"! The North Street pumping station is less than 100 yards from our house.. It did NOT do the job that night. Five months and many thousands of dollars later, the first floor of our house is back to normal. We hope it never happens again and support our council as they make tough decisions on capital investments. Sewers are not glamourous, but they are very important. Lets get this pump station fixed so we never wake up with a house full of S*** again.
Madison Station February 18, 2012 at 03:52 AM
The old meters run slow, which gives away services. The new meters allow for more energy market opportunities, from what I understand.
Slip February 18, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Wow, 'nuff said. It's absolutely inexcusable you or any family should have had to go thru that experience. Hopefully that ends any debate as to whether that project should be funded. Forget about the AAA rating, I don't care what it costs, if the town is unable to fund safe maintenance of it's raw sewage, it should be declared bankrupt
Madison Station February 18, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Part of the issue is illegal sewer hookups by your neighbors. Instead of pumping out their basements into the storm drain, they pump it down the sewer drain and cause an overflow at the pump station. When they go to install the new meters, part of that should be an inspection of the house to ensure it complies with town sewer and electric ordinances.
Slip February 19, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I don't disagree with part of your point but to me thats clouding the town's responsbility with that of it's residents. There are two distinct issues. One is the town is obligated to have the mechanical infrastructure in place that would prevent raw sewage from backing up into and covering my house. Period. And if it was me, the town would without question have a law suit on it's hands that would more than take care of that $2.7M surplus The other is that residents are required to abide by town ordinances and laws for use of their residential property. And if they are not and if they are caught doing so then they will be fined or penalized according to statute


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