Township Council moves Lyons Road paving assessment project forward

| 14 Nov 2018 | 12:08

    By Garrett Hemmerich
    WEST MILFORD – The West Milford Township Council has decided to create cost estimates for the Hanover/Princeton/Lyons Road paving and assessment program.
    “Having cost estimates and having things in place so we can act intelligently, I don’t see the harm in that,” Township Councilman Mike Hensley said during the Nov. 7 meeting before the council agreed to proceed with the estimates.
    The council received a petition back in August, 2017, from the Hanover/Princeton/Lyons Road area’s residents asking for a road assessment for paving the diort road.
    The residents were then invited to attend a meeting with a senior engineering aid and the town tax assessor, where they were given rough estimates of the assessment costs.
    Vote cards were sent out to the area’s property owners soon after, with the majority voting to move forward with the estimates, officials said.
    There is nothing currently in the budget for the project, which is anticipated to cost around $650,000. Regardless of the exact amount, though, residents will be responsible for the lion’s share, officials said.
    ”When you do a project like this, the residents pay the whole freight unless it reaches a certain max amount,” Township Administrator Antoinette Battaglia said. “Then the township would have to pay.“
    That exact cap amount is unclear at the moment, hence the decision to proceed with the estimates. However, some residents already feel that their potential financial obligations were not made clear enough to them.
    James Kuhta, a 23-year resident and professional land surveyor, brought samples of the vote cards that were sent out to the meeting and presented them to the council.
    “Would you have any idea that you may actually have upwards of a $10,000 payment which you will need to make to the township?” Kuhta asked the council members. “I’d like any of you, to show me in that letter, where that was stated. You can’t come up with that $10,000, the town could actually foreclose on the home and take it away,”
    Kuhta also said he believes that property owners weren’t adequately informed about the potential loss of property for the right of ways that could come with the project, but other residents disagree.
    “As far as losing property, it was clearly explained,” said Bob Bartilucci, a local fire company president who has lived on Lyons Road for over 41 years.
    “No one’s losing their mailbox and their garden that their grandchildren helped them build 10 years ago,“ Bartilucci said. “It’s going to be done in a very fair and equitable manner.”
    Bartilucci, like many other residents in the area, said he believes that the vote cards and previous meetings provided ample information to understand the scope of the project and what it would mean for residents.
    He said he wants the council to move forward with the road assessment project, but not just for reasons of personal convenience nor potential increases in property value.
    “There have been times when I have had to call the chief of the fire department, ask him to call Town Hall so we could get somebody in there to fix the holes in that road,” Bartilucci told the council members. “Because I knew, being on the fire company, we couldn’t get a fire truck in there.”
    Another resident, Dennis Cassidy, said he supports the project because of the drainage improvements it promises.
    “We’re not just getting pavement, we’re getting drainage,” Cassidy said. “We have problems in the winter where the roads just get completely rotted out. It’s a sheet of ice. It’s dangerous.”
    Officials said of the 55 residents who were sent vote cards, 24 voted yes and nine voted no, while 22 did not return a vote. All 55 would be responsible for a portion of the project should it proceed.
    At this point, however, the council has only decided to move forward with creating estimates for the initial work, including the design and engineering. As Township Attorney Fred Semrau said, it’s just an initial step.
    “There are many steps left when it comes to the numbers,” Semrau said. “But to get this kind of feedback and have estimates is the best you can do at this point.”
    The council plans to meet in 2019 to discuss a budget consideration for the engineering and design work before meeting again in 2020 to discuss a capital appropriation.