Hopewell Township Committee kicks off budget season, with special attention to Aunt Molly Road

Aunt Molly Rd. scene via Google Earth

At its January 31 special meeting, the Hopewell Township Committee met to discuss the 2022 budget. This included plans regarding Aunt Molly Road, as well as a recap and review of the proposed Capital Budget for this year.   

Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning explained that she, Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger, Township Engineer James Hutzelmann, and director of Public Works, George Snyder visited Aunt Molly Road last week. 

“We wanted to get a sense of the problems that were there on the unpaved portions, and some potential solutions. I think we all learned a lot about our options and the obstacles,” said Peters-Manning. 

Finance liaison Kevin Kuchinski then gave an overview of the issues surrounding Aunt Molly Road. 

“[Aunt Molly Road] is paved at both of the ends, but has an unpaved section in the middle; this has been a subject of controversy over the years because some residents want it to be entirely paved, others don’t want it to become a cut-through,” Kuchinski explained.

According to Kuchinski, the recent storms have highlighted some of these issues. The Committee saw the amount of effort the Public Works Department has been putting into maintaining the unpaved portions. 

Snyder then presented a brief overview of some options and solutions. “The road could be repaired and left in the condition it’s currently in. Regular maintenance usually involves quarterly repairs where we clean the ditches and repair potholes,” Snyder explained. He continued: “another option is limited drainage and chip seal, rescinded drainage and chip seal, or pave in and complete drainage improvement from the roadway.” 

After Hurricane Ida, there was extensive damage done to the road forcing it to close. According to Snyder, a contractor came out to do some repairs, but the equipment they have makes the repairs last a lot longer. “Having a contractor come out once a year to repair the road could be an option, however that could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000,” said Snyder. 

“There’s no intent to significantly widen or change the geometry of the road. What we’re talking about is a surface-in project and some drainage improvement along with it,” said Hutzelmann. 

Hutzelmann explained that estimates are pointing to an annual maintenance program, which could cost as much as $100,000 to do major improvements and then continuing maintenance. 

“What struck me was the level of maintenance that has already occurred and to see the amount of damage that is continuing,” he said.

Peters-Manning then opened it up to the public, particularly residents of the road, but no one came forward. Synder suggested sending out an informational packet and creating a stand alone meeting in the future. 

“We’re not making a decision right now because we need a lot more information before we can move forward,” said Peters-Manning. 

With public commentary closed, Kuchinski stepped forward to review the Capital Budget.

“We have a principle that we do not want to incur new capital costs in a given year relative to what we are paying down in the prior year, so I thought it would be helpful to share an exhibit that shows you our debt principal paydown efforts,” said Kuchinski.  

Treasurer Julie Troutman shared the exhibit, citing a total 2021 paydown of 5.8 million. 

“As we go into 2022 capital planning, I would suggest our starting point from a budgeting standpoint is really $5.16 million,” said Kuchinski.

The next exhibit Tourtman showed summarized the inputs the Committee has gotten to date. Currently, there are about $8.3 million in gross capital project requests.  

“As we finalize this Capital Budget, we’re at about $7.2 million today, and we’re trying to get to about $5.2 million,” said Kuchinski.  

The Committee began to go line by line discussing priorities and making adjustments. 

“We started off with a $2 million gap and now we’re at a $400,000 gap, but we’ve talked about more than $400,000 in savings opportunities, so I think we’ve made really good progress,” said Kuchinski

The next regular Hopewell Township Committee meeting is February 7. 

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