SOUTH RIVER–Elaborating on South River’s current financial and infrastructural status, Mayor John Krenzel delivered his annual State of the Borough Address.
“Since the beginning of the year, literally, and I mean literally, every week there is something that we would discover that was not done, done incorrectly or done in such a matter that the town suffered for it,” Krenzel said on May 28.
Giving a few examples, Krenzel explained that the HAZMAT agreement with the county that the council voted on at its last meeting can give the borough money if there is a hazardous spill in the borough. The agreement was not signed last year and the borough was fortunate that the county was able to take care of it this year.
“The webmaster who takes care of the webpage was not paid for the work that was done. The ‘Monthly Buzz,’ most people received it, but by the time most people would receive it the announcements would be out of date, but the town collected money for advertising,” Krenzel said. “The town never voted on what the fees would be or the conditions when it stopped; the advertisers were owed money back. They were ignored until we paid them this year.”
Krenzel revealed that the borough earmarked public funds to fix a private alleyway downtown. No agreement was signed with the private owners who technically did not give their permission then to have anything done on their property, but he guesses it was considered a wash because that contractor wasn’t paid.
“[When] you don’t play by the rules you can get away with it for a certain amount of time but eventually, it catches up to you, and we have been spending the last five months trying to put the town back together again,” Krenzel said.
For this year’s municipal budget, Krenzel said water rates should have been raised last year, but weren’t. The taxes had to go up to buy the things that the borough needs; however, 94% of the budget is out of the borough’s hands due to fixed costs. On top of all that there is a cap on how much the borough can raise by revenue and how much the borough can spend.
“We are using $100,000 from prior bond ordinances for roadway repairs. We are using $542,200 from the State of New Jersey to repairs the streets. I would like to have seen the budget continue my plan to wean us off the electric utility surplus,” Krenzel reported. “For years, the town would put $50,000 more into for the taxes and take $50,000 less from the electric utility. I was told that at that rate, given the fact that we take over $3 million from the electric utility, that it’s going to take forever to bring down the electric rates that way and I agree.”
Krenzel said that this year the borough has to purchase things like fire hydrants.
“So to you, how does it affect you? I have tried to give you an idea as to what’s going on and it does affect you. If your house is near one of those fire hydrants that has a plastic bag over it you’re going to want that fire hydrant to work,” Krenzel said. “You want your garbage picked up, we have to make sure the trucks are rolling. Now that the budget has been adopted we can now turn to the future.”
Krenzel explained that the borough is putting in new street lights that will provide more light and cost less. The borough is continuing to work on the South River Battery Project.
“The water and sewer structure is a mess. The pipes are old, the rust and the dirt is going into the pipes, we are working on a plan to repair the pipes [and] possibly putting a sleeve through the pipe so we won’t have to open up the roadway to do that,” Krenzel said. “We are working on providing services within our caps. The expenditures that we have do not allow us to send $200,000 for road repairs this year, so we put in $100,000 from prior bond ordinances and used money from the state.”
With the borough currently in an ongoing lawsuit with the South River Rescue Squad and the South River Emergency Medical Services, Krenzel reported that the borough is working on providing a 24/7 rescue squad for residents.
“Robert Wood Johnson was employed to cover the entire town for 24 hours; unfortunately, there was no signed contract and now we are going out to get short-term coverage while we decide actually what we are going to do,” he said.
Krenzel pointed out that this October will be seven years since superstorm Sandy hit the borough.
“We survived financially because we were prudent before Sandy hit but by June 30 we will have lost a total of 80 houses in this town,” Krenzel said. “That was with the first buyout and now it’s with our second buyout. By June 30 we’ll have lost 80 houses – that means that $153,000 less coming into this town and you can imagine what the school system suffered.”
Krenzel said that the borough is working hard to provide residents with the best bang for their buck.
“This year the expenditures are going to be crazy. Our legal fees are through the roof; all those legal matters, all those matters that were not done, they have to be done correctly,” Krenzel said. “We are involved in court cases, we have got two different law firms working on this, our water repairs are wiping out our water budget. We are spending money at a record pace but we have no choice the pipes break you got to fix it.”
Krenzel said that he hopes residents start getting involved in helping their borough by writing to the governing body, coming to council meetings and talking to borough officials.
“All of us here are here and we are spending our money to protect our homes … and to make sure that our garbage is picked up. So we are out there and we are working on our tax base, fixing up the downtown, filling up empty storefronts,” Krenzel said. “A lot of the things that happen in South River is because we do have volunteers and they are our great blessings. So I advise you to get off of social media and come out and participate.”
Contact Vashti Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.