Growing costs at Strawbridge Lake spark debate

Expenditures at Strawbridge Lake were the catalyst for much discussion about the township’s spending at the most recent meeting of Moorestown Township Council. At the meeting, Council adopted an ordinance on first reading appropriating $760,000 to be used for improvements along Strawbridge Lake.

The ordinance encompasses three projects, including a pathway along the lake for an estimated $300,000, the restoration of the “Children’s Pond” for an estimated $150,000 and stormwater improvements around Haines Drive for an estimate of $310,000. The projects are set to go out to bid, and the ordinance will allow the township to borrow $532,000 in addition to utilizing a $200,000 county grant.

Councilman Michael Locatell questioned how the money will be spent. He said council receives summaries but doesn’t receive line-item details. Locatell said, to his knowledge, the township received lower estimates from the previous engineering company on the project. He said the previous firm was “pretty solid on those numbers,” so he wonders where the discrepancy is.

“It’s frustrating to figure out what’s going on here,” Locatell said.

Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano echoed Locatell’s sentiments. She said she tried to look up the previous estimates but couldn’t dig that information up on her own. She emphasized that she’s in favor of doing these projects, but she wants to make sure the township is completing them in the most efficient way possible.

“It would be worth going back to those and comparing,” Napolitano said. “This did seem like more than what we had originally expected.”

Township Manager Thomas Neff said he would look into the previous estimates and get council any information it and the public they may want.

Resident Roberta Scott said she was concerned the three projects are being “lumped together.” She said while drainage is important and necessary, the pathways are more of a nicety. She also questioned how fiscally responsible spending $300,000 on a children’s pond is when the township has other infrastructure that is in need of repair. Scott suggested the children’s pond might be a project better funded by local business or outside parties.

“To spend $300,000 on that is just astronomical,” Scott said.

Mayor Lisa Petriello said these projects are necessary to get the lake to a point where it can have a regular maintenance standard.

“I would just like to see some type of something to back up that that’s a necessity and not a luxury at a time where we’re stretched,” Scott said in response.

Locatell explained they have to dredge the children’s pond because it catches sand, silt and other contaminants before they can get to the lake. He said the project is “absolutely necessary,” but he was in agreement that he’d like to see the line items on that expense.

While the three projects are “lumped together” in one funding authorization, each project will come back to council for individual discussion after a public bidding process, according to Neff.

Resident Greg Scott inquired about the recurring costs of the project. He said if they dredge the lake now, how much will it cost the township in the years to come?

Neff said, in his discussion with the engineer, he was told that usually dredging will last five to 10 years. While the lake will inevitably silt again, the most likely scenario is looking like 10 years before they would have to dredge again.

The public hearing on the ordinance will take place at council’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.