I am very concerned that the new Berkeley Heights Municipal Building will not meet the needs of the town. After being denied a vote on a $31,000,000 bonding for this project, the town again seems to be closing the door to the public by denying them access to the planning documents. Somehow this does not appear “neighborly”.

While I continue to disagree with the price tag, I am now concerned that the Town Council is also doing the planning for this building away from the oversight of the residents. They have already admitted publicly that they had no idea if the people in the town wanted to double the town’s debt. I am now concerned that they may ignore what the residents of the town feel are their priorities for this Building.

Most in town were against its exorbitant price tag, however, some I spoke to seemed OK with it, saying “we need something”. However, do we really want just “something”, that is, anything the council chooses? I am very concerned that the town’s priorities are not in sync with the residents’. Why shut out the residents?

Other than the architecture diagrams that have been released, the residents have been totally shut out of the entire planning process. Along with many, one of the things that I did feel there was a need for was to update the Police Office and move the detectives out of the trailers. I feel that assuring that Berkeley Heights residents are safe is important. That has always been a priority for me and was what I felt was the primary need for the building. However, what else?

For others in town their main concern has been the library. And the claims have been that we are building a “state of the art learning facility”. I have seen very few details on what is the difference between a regular library and a “state of the art learning facility”. Are all of those changes making it into the planning stages? Or are we just building a regular library and using the money on office space instead?

Are we getting a rec center and senior center or just multipurpose rooms? What percentage of the building are offices vs space that provides an actual benefit for Berkeley Heights residents? Would the residents prefer to pay for a corner office for our part time Mayor or more study space for its children if given the choice?

I am concerned, that without involving the residents to play an involved role, that the handful of people making the decision on what to do with up to $38,000,000 available, will miss the mark with community expectations. If left up to the administrator and town “experts”, will more emphasis on office space be a the major priority rather than on the priorities defined by the residents.

Do you share my concern? Regardless if you were for or against the price-tag, do you also feel that you should be left out of the planning process as well because this is exactly what is now happening. The town is denying residents access to documents during the planning stages. You personally may not be interested in these docs, however by blocking public access, the Town Council is ensuring that you will only get the information that they choose to give you and at a timing of their choice.

There are people such as myself that like to go through these documents and summarize and inform the public as to what is going on. The Council may present something in the future at a time where it will probably be too late for resident involvement. Do you agree with me that the minimum the town can do is to allow us access to the documents during the planning stages? It is our money after all that is paying for it. Is it “neighborly” to shut us out?

Tom Maciejewski

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