PART 6: Questioning Specifics in the "Revised" Resilient Communities Program Grant Application

PART 6: Questioning Specifics in the Revised Resilient Communities Program Grant Application

By Manville.Today
May 19, 2024

In the past 5 parts of this series, we hope you are now more informed about the current status of what is happening with Rustic Mall. From a brief history of the property itself, to how it had to be demolished because of creosote contamination, and to how previous plans fell apart.

We hope you also understand how this RCP Grant could negatively affect Manville in the long-term. The initial application had some good ideas for flood mitigation and response efforts, but then was totally changed to now acquire Manville's only large parcel of land to use mostly as a Municipal Campus.

This brings us to our concerns. We feel that these major changes should have been communicated to the public. The public appears to have been locked out from communicating their concerns.

There appears to be a lack of transparency in this process. Everything about the Rustic Mall has been behind closed doors, or via lawsuits in the Court. No one knows what the truth is about how this project is happening, or how the town is securing the property, and at what real cost. Regardless if the cost is from a grant or if taxpayers will foot the bill.

This is the only sizable, buildable property that could bring in the most tax revenue to help stabilize taxes. It seems that it will be used for the Mayor to have a nice, shiny new office.

The complete disregard for taxpayers, residents, and the ever-increasing property taxes we are paying means nothing to the Mayor and Council. Half of Borough Council doesn't even pay property taxes -- they either live with their parents, or with relatives. They cannot relate to property owners in Manville.

There was not a proper public forum. The Mayor and Council should have clearly stated what they were doing. They should have invited the public to comment, as is required, rather than invite a few people to a forum that became moot since that is not what the grant was. It is sneaky and shady.

Manville already has budget issues and pressing needs. If the "Smart Moves" grant is not approved, they will be taking more than a million dollars from the general or capital budget. This is not using taxpayer money wisely.

Is this why the Mayor is so adamant about Manville being let free from control by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs? Are they going to blow through the approximately $2 million dollars leftover from the sewer sale to work on this project? We have many more pressing issues than the Mayor needing a new office.

Residents are clearly unhappy with these plans. Local Facebook groups were full of people against the plans. Manville's residents don't want a "Municipal Campus".

Time is running out. We know that project schedules are estimated, but in their project plan, it states they will begin the property acquisition phase on June 15th. That is not far from now.

We can only hope that these plans get scrapped. These plans are not in the best interests of Manville's taxpayers and residents. Why were they so against making Rustic Mall a mixed-used property where it would maximize the value for Manville's taxpayers? Now it will have a good part of it not generating tax revenue at all, plus additional maintenance costs.

Manville residents deserve better.