Editor's Note: The following is Far Hills' Mayor Paul Vallone's commentary regarding the Bernards Township Committee's decision on Feb. 12 that Far Hills should begin paying a greater percentage of the cost of maintaining Douglas Road and a portion of Mine Brook Road shared by both municipalities. The border for the towns runs down the center of both roads, officials said.
To the editor,
February 15, 2013
Re: Road Service Agreement between Far Hills and Bernards Township: Far Hills is paying it's fair share.
I would like to address several issues raised concerning the recent issue that has arisen concerning the Interlocal agreement of shared services between Far Hills and Bernards Twp. with respect to the maintenance of Minebrook Road and Douglas Road. This agreement between the municipalities goes back to sometime in early 1923 and was reaffirmed in 1993.
Late in 2012, the Far Hills Council received a notification from Bernards Township that effective January 2013, the agreement between the two municipalities wherein Far Hills pays 15 percent of the cost of snowplowing, salting and minor repairs and Bernards Twp pays 85 percent, would no longer be honored and a 50/50 percent split would take effect. This notification came as a mandate without any offer to discuss or substantial reasons as to why the changes were to take place, keep in mind that this is a unilateral increase of over 300 percent.
At my suggestion, a meeting was requested wherein Mr. Bruce McArthur, then Mayor-Elect Carolyn Gaziano representing Bernards Twp. met with myself, Councilman David Surks and Clerk Dorothy Hicks of Far Hills. At that meeting, the disparity between the size of our respective municipalities and budgets were discussed but I offered an increase in the percentage that Far Hills would pay which all thought seemed fair and reasonable.
Subsequently, I was notified that the full Council of Bernards Twp. voted against the proposal and demanded a 50/50 split or they would plow, sand and repair only their side of the roads in question, again a unilateral decision made with no good faith offer of negotiation.
Mr. McArthur is quoted as saying that Far Hills has paid a little over $12,450.00 and the impression is that that sum is from 1993. This is not from 1993 but rather over the last two years alone and if based on population, our residents paid almost $13.45 per resident while Bernards residents paid $2.86 per resident during this time frame for these services, not to mention other issues including road usage, number of vehicles and housing developments along these road which have not been factored in; Far Hills IS clearly paying its fair share!
To be clear, Far Hills, will continue to pursue efforts to negotiate a fair share arrangement with Bernards Township in an amicable manner, but shared agreements must benefit both municipalities with regard to services provided and price paid for those services.
The ultimatum by Bernards Twp. that effective Feb. 27, they will plow only their half of Minebrook and Douglas roads as these roads are divided longitudinally and are the boundaries between our two municipalities, and in 60 days stop service to Sherwood Farms Road under a separate contract in my opinion is totally irresponsible.
I and the Far Hills Borough Council are considering all possible options concerning this issue, rest assured that our residents and their safety are foremost in our minds and we will have alternative plans in place should they be necessary if an amicable agreement with Bernards Twp. cannot be reached.
I look forward to hearing from Mayor Gaziano in the very near future so that we can continue amicable and productive negotiations and resolve this issue so as to benefit the residents we serve.
Paul J. Vallone, MD
Borough of Far Hills