Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell gave a “state of the town” talk at the annual meeting of Harmon Cove’s board on Monday night, covering a wide range of bread-and-butter issues from parking at the train station to paving roads and taking questions from residents of the development.
As the town heads into a budget year, Elwell said Secaucus’ ratable tax base is up despite the economic doldrums with nearly $5M back on the books after a decline last year of up to $6M. That slide last year was partly from the dormant state of shops at the Mill Creek Mall. He said despite the “deep economic depression” banks continue to lend for projects in Secaucus because of its high bond rating, location and other factors.
The mayor noted the town remains in a surplus, a good sign that many municipalities can’t state amid the “deep economic depression” and he hopes to ink a budget deal “very early” this year.
One particular area of agita for the mayor is the revenue sharing agreement with the N.J. Meadowloands Commission. Under a formula based in part on the nuber of children that live in the section of Secaucus under the NJMC’s purview, Elwell said Secaucus paid up to $3.4M last year to the entity. He said the NJMC was set up as a development entity but in recent years has evolved into more of a environmental and planning regulator in regard to Secaucus and therefore its requirements should change. “Why should taxpayers of Secaucus be sending money to Carlstadt?” he asked rhetorically, noting as chair of the mayor’s commitee of the NJMC he has pushed the need for reform to Gov. Corzine and the commission.
One possible alternative to the NJMC’s erratic forumula is a seat tax at the new Giants stadium. Elwell pointed out that every city with a National Football League team has a seat tax except Giants Stadium, although he acknowledged that local municipalities would face competition for funds from the Meadlowlands Exposition Authority if such a tax was implemented.
Train Station Parking
Elwell said the 1,000-space private parking lot projected to handle commuters at Secaucus Junction should be up and running in three to four months as a warehouse on the property has reportedly been demolished. Only Secaucus residents with monthly New Jersey Transit passes will be eligible for a discount, however, ruling out those who must buy individual senior or single-ride tickets for each train ride. “Parking is coming,” said the mayor.
Elwell said Wal-Mart is revamping its megastore to provide supermarket items. He acknowledged that “some people don’t like Wal-Mart” but added that D’Agostino is in talks with Transit Village to possibly build a store at Phase 2 of the development.
The mayor said the pothole-ridden portal of Seaview Drive, which leads from Harmon Cover to the train station, is on tap to be fixed up in the spring. He also said $650K in funding has been allocated and an RFP issued for work on Meadowlands Parkway.
Rec Center Membership
The mayor also said the new Secaucus Recreation Center is off to a good start and has inked more than 500 memberships translating to more than 1,500 users of the new facility. The town has set an unofficial goal of about 2,600 users to reach sustainable levels.
He said only three full-time employees have been hired for the center — the dozens of others are part-timers.
Elwell also added that the town’s reps in Washington, D.C., helped to secure a $240K homeland security grant for new breathing devices for the fire department.