After multiple past inquires, Medford Township has received an invitation to join Main Street New Jersey, a state program providing technical assistance, resources and training to help revitalize a municipalities’ downtown area.
However, council is unsure whether joining the program will ultimately benefit Medford Village.
Council decided to table a resolution accepting an executive agreement to participate in the program.
Beth Portocalis, assistant to the township manager, said the township has looked at this program in the past, but this is the first year the state has extended an invitation for Medford to participate.
“We had made inquiries in the past, but at the time the state wasn’t even accepting applications,” Portocalis said.
The program has three tiers of membership. Portocalis said Medford would be an associate member. Associate members do not need to hire any additional staff for the program. The program itself would not cost the township any money.
“You would not have to have a paid staff member, but you would be able to participate in the technical assistance and networking opportunities that are available from the program,” Portocalis said.
Members of council were skeptical of the program. Councilman Jeff Beenstock said the township already has initiatives and tools similar to what the program provides.
“It seemed like a lot of initiatives and goals are similar to what our (economic development committee) does,” he said.
Council was also concerned about how vague some of the requirements were. Mayor Chris Buoni and councilman Frank Czekay both said there were areas of the agreement they did not understand. Buoni particularly feared joining the program would give the state power to make changes to Medford Village.
“I’m not so sure that I want to sign on to something that is vague to me right now,” Buoni said.
Councilman Brad Denn didn’t think the program would dictate too many requirements for the township, and didn’t think there would be too much harm in joining the program as long as council received more detail.
“It seems to me if we join this, the state is going to give us a toolbox of things,” Denn said. “If we don’t do anything with them, we don’t do anything.”
While members of council were unsure about joining the program, Portocalis said the township has received support from the economic development committee and the Medford Business Association to join. She felt the program would only further benefit Medford Village.
“This has been strongly advocated by the Medford business Association and the Medford Village Business Association when it existed,” Portocalis said. “So when we made the application earlier this year, it was a joint application prepared by the economic development committee. To tap into those resources and better tap those into the renaissance of Main Street, the timing seems to be good now.”
Council hasn’t ruled out joining the program. Buoni said council would consider it again if he received more detail. In addition, council wants to hear from the business association on how the program may benefit them.
However, council does not have a lot of time left to make a decision. Portocalis said the state’s deadline for joining the program next year is Dec. 15.