Key Documents Relating to Walker's Pond that all Residents Should Review:
Walker's Pond - A Brief History
Walker's Pond is a seventeen acre tract of land located at 400 Mountain Avenue, which was acquired by the Borough in 2016 pursuant to ordinance (BO-4-16), which appropriated (authorized spending) $2.85 million for acquisition costs and site improvements, including pond restoration and building demolition. It does not appear that any meaningful site improvements, including pond restoration and building demolition, have occurred as of May 2020 (over four years later).
In the 2019 General Election, the residents of the Borough voted to keep the land in its natural state for recreation, and against development of the property, by way of a public referendum question. This referendum authorized the creation of a open space trust fund to preserve the land and is expected to raise over $3.5 million over fifteen years.
On May 26, 2020, the Mayor & Council conducted a public hearing on whether to appropriate (spend) another $2,126,000 for improvements to Walker's Pond. Specifically, proposed Ordinance BO-2-2020 sought to appropriate $2,126,000 (bringing total appropriations to nearly $5,000,000 for the property) for dredging the pond and unidentified upgrades and renovations. The Borough had already issued a request for proposals to bidders for the dredging of the pond, even though it is had not given the public their right to be heard on whether they are for or against this spending. It appeared the Mayor & Council had predetermined to incur this debt and proceed with this project regardless of what the public had to say at the hearing.
At the May 26, 2020 hearing, the overwhelming majority of residents who commented at the hearing voiced their issues and concerns to the Mayor & Council. Specifically, that the Mayor & Council still had not presented an overall plan for the property and further, given the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not the appropriate time to rush into the proposed project with a multi-million dollar price tag. Among the many suggestions by residents was for the Mayor & Council to form a committee of residents to come up with a recommended overall plan for the property. The overall consensus from the public at the meeting was for the Mayor & Council to slow the process down before authorizing another $2+ million in debt for the town.
After hearing the many issues and concerns raised by the residents at the meeting, the Mayor & Council voted unanimously to authorize the Borough to incur the $2+ million more in debt. This debt authorization now brings the total authorized debt on Walker's Pond close to $5,000,000 since it's acquisition in 2016.