Friday, March 13th, 2015

Board Moves Ahead with Full Slate of Countywide Projects Despite Delay by the State in Releasing Matching Funds

The Morris County Freeholders have approved a short-term financing plan that will allow the county to move full-speed-ahead this spring and summer on a full slate of road repaving projects, targeting 32 miles of county roadways in 20 municipalities at a total estimated cost of $10.2 million.

It is part of the board’s continuing focus on the need to maintain and upgrade the county’s 280 mile road network, which for a second consecutive year will get a facelift on more than 30 miles of county maintained roads.

As part of the effort to expedite repaving projects, the freeholders at their meeting on Wednesday in Morristown approved resolutions authorizing engineering design contracts for milling and resurfacing projects on several major county roads, including South Beverwyck Road in Parsippany, Fairmount Avenue in the Chathams, East Hanover Avenue in Hanover Township, and Changebridge and Whitehall roads in Montville.

The county already has allocated $6.2 million for the 2015 road work and anticipates a 40-percent match, or some $4 million, from the state Department of Transportation. However, state budget problems have delayed distribution of those state dollars for Morris and all other counties across the state.

The freeholders unanimously decided on Wednesday to approve issuance of short-term bond anticipation notes to temporarily replace state matching funds, so the county will not have to delay or postpone the road projects while waiting for state funding.

Board members stressed this is a cash flow management issue that will not increase the county’s debt, and noted the short-term notes will be promptly repaid when state funding come through.

“Improving our roads is a priority commitment of this freeholder board and we intend to take the steps necessary to ensure that people driving and riding on county roads have a safe experience,’’ said Freeholder David Scapicchio, the board’s liaison on road and public works issues. “But we have to be able to move quickly to bid this work. We believe that with oil prices still depressed, we may have an opportunity right now to get some good bid prices on our projects. We don’t want to delay.’’

The $6.2 million earmarked for repaving by the freeholders represents a large chunk of the county’s $25 million proposed 2015 capital budget, and represents a doubling of the previous five-year average spending on resurfacing, even as the freeholders have held the budget to a zero percent tax rate increase over the past three years.

In addition, it also includes about $2.9 million for the construction of four bridges, the design of four others and the construction of two culverts.