New capital improvement programs at the borough will be subject to more rigorous vetting and improved public input under terms of an ordinance approved Thursday night by the Borough Assembly.
Mayor Bryce Ward and Assemblymen Matt Cooper, Shaun Tacke and Aaron Lojewski sponsored the large-scale updates, which were unanimously approved.
Capital improvement programs are required under state law and borough ordinance, and “are useful tools to identify projects and the funding necessary to complete them,” the ordinance states.
Mayor Ward said public input will improve thanks to “three distinct opportunities,” including nominations and two resolutions with public comment.
“It allows a public process for us to be able to sit down with the community and make sure the scope of the project is appropriate,” he said.
The ordinance strikes one paragraph from borough code instructing the mayor to annually submit six-year capital improvement programs — including for education — and holding at least one public hearing on the program prior to adoption.
Replacing the paragraph is 1.5 pages of language outlining CIPs in much greater detail, including specific sections on nominations, evaluation, selection, financials, review and adoption.
“The beauty of this process, is it allows the community to see 10 years into the future,” Ward said.
Any borough resident may nominate a project between Monday, Aug. 12, and Oct. 11. All submissions will be reviewed by the administration for duplications and evaluated for feasibility before being sent to the assembly Finance Committee. Recommended projects will be presented in two rounds of assembly resolutions with public hearings.
Programs will be developed by considering score and rank. Priorities will depend on funding year, project, schedule and financing sources.
Primary funding is expected to come from the borough’s facilities maintenance reserve fund, but bonds and grants may also be used.
Assemblyman Lojewski said the borough’s growing facility maintenance fund makes this ordinance especially timely.
“It makes sense to have a more robust plan than we’ve had in the past.”
Lojewski also addressed concerns he’s heard that the changes are an attempt by the borough to fund pet projects.
“It doesn’t have an agenda. ... It’s just a way of finding the most efficient way to allocate every dollar,” he said.
The borough is holding two community workshops — Aug. 19 and Sept. 24 — to offer residents more information, which also is available at fnsb.us/CIP.
Onsite consumption language
Also on Thursday, the assembly adopted new language in borough code, specifying the borough’s ability to protest onsite consumption of marijuana endorsements, as well as license renewals, conversions and transfers.
Ward said that because of state law, the new language doesn’t change anything the borough is able to do, but it will now be spelled out in borough code.
About the old language, Ward said, “Our code wouldn’t explain that process to anyone that was looking at it, but we would still be able to protest under state law.”
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