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>Ridgewood Council will pay back remainder of parking garage bond

>Ridgewood Council will pay back remainder of parking garage bond
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Ridgewood Village Council passed a resolution Tuesday night essentially canceling the balance on a bond ordinance and saving taxpayer money on interest payments. But officials said the ordinance itself is still active and could be used down the road to borrow the money again.

The unanimous vote authorizes the chief financial officer pay back $1.6 million left over from a $3 million bond ordinance. The bond was originally issued to begin work on a proposed parking garage at the North Walnut Street municipal parking lot and it was used to pay for environmental studies that revealed the presence of hydrocarbons at the site; the property had been home to many gas stations in past decades.

Some of the money was also used in an attempt to purchase the Town Garage property next to the municipal parking lot through eminent domain. That property was needed to build a proposed 360-space parking structure, which would have included nearly 40,000 square feet of retail.

Money was used to declare the North Walnut Street lot a “blighted area in need of redevelopment” based on the results of the environmental study. The project began with the previous council, but the current village council voted the project down, leaving the fate of the remaining bond up for debate for the past year.

According to figures provided by Village Manager Ken Gabbert to resident Boyd Loving, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, giving back the leftover money will save Ridgewood taxpayers about $1,500 a month in interest payments.

“Every 30 days you are holding on to that money, taxpayers are spending $1,500 of interest for a yearly total of $18,000, according to the memo that Dr. Gabbert gave me,” Loving explained.

The council held the meeting on Tuesday night because an interest payment on the bond is due by Jan. 22.

The move to not cancel the actual bond ordinance will allow the council to borrow up to $1.6 million again if it decided to use the funds to remediate the contaminated North Walnut Street municipal parking lot or purchase the Town Garage property.

Mayor David Pfund mentioned “flipping” that money to a proposed parking deck at a Hudson Street municipal lot, but Gabbert informed him that doing so would require a new ordinance since the money was originally bonded for a project in the North Walnut Street Redevelopment District.

Councilwoman Anne Zusy asked how difficult it would be to borrow the money again if the council were to proceed with a project on North Walnut Street. Gabbert said that it would take at least two months to introduce and adopt another ordinance, not including the time it would take to negotiate a purchase price for the Town Garage property with its current owner, Ridgewood 120 LLC, should that be the route the council takes.

Pfund described the ordinance as an “unfunded authorization” that would allow the town to borrow the remaining $1.6 million to purchase the Town Garage property if it decided to move in that direction.

“You can cancel the ability to borrow under this bond by being in a position of revising or amending the ordinance, or canceling the ordinance that’s in existence. That’s a separate vote,” said Village Attorney Matt Rogers. “This is a resolution to specifically deal with the cancellation of the amount to reduce the bond to what we’ve used, basically.”

Deputy Mayor Keith Killion said that if there is support to purchase the Town Garage property, it “should be discussed in closed [session].”

Councilman Paul Aronsohn went on record with his long-held position that he was not in favor of purchasing the Town Garage property, and he felt the bond ordinance should be canceled Tuesday night.

“I’ve been directed by the council to contact the other side [Ridgewood 120 LLC] to see if there was a way that we could negotiate a price for the property,” Rogers said. “That’s all my charge was, Paul. That’s all I was asked to do.”

Rogers also noted that in order to cancel the bond ordinance, a “super majority,” or four votes, would be required. A super majority is necessary for any action to take place regarding a bond ordinance, he said.

“With the issue of remediation still outstanding, and the issue of possibly purchasing Ridgewood 120 LLC, 120 Franklin Ave., unresolved, but under consideration, this is what I thought,” Rogers said.

Councilman Pat Mancuso discussed a Jan. 6 council meeting, during which a $1.75 million estimate was given in relation to constructing one level of parking at a Hudson Street lot.

“This is what I’ve wanted to achieve, spreading out the parking,” Mancuso said. “I am not for the big parking garage on Franklin, I am not for that at all. And I agree with Paul — let’s vote on it, get it out of the way and move forward.”

Killion added that a past parking committee recommended “six or seven years ago” to construct single levels of parking at a variety of municipal lots throughout the Central Business District. Zusy said the same thought was submitted as part of recommendations made by a more recent parking committee, of which she was a member.

Pfund almost ended the meeting without a vote, but Aronsohn and Killion pushed for a formal vote to pay back the remainder of the bond to avoid paying interest on money that the council is not going to use right now.

“So this vote is showing our approval and desire that the money gets paid back so there’s no interest,” Pfund said just before the vote was taken.

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