Harrison Township, Mullica Gardens reach amended financial agreement

The agreement will have Mullica Gardens pay a flat PILOT fee of $135,000 for the next five years

A brief Harrison Township Committee meeting on Monday saw the passage of three resolutions, including one to amend the township’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with Mullica Gardens Realty Urban Renewal Entity LLC.

Township committee unanimously passed the amendment to the agreement between the municipality and Mullica Gardens. The two sides originally entered into a redevelopment agreement in 2013 for the construction of Mullica Gardens Assisted Living on Mullica Hill Road, between Route 322 and Main Street.

The original PILOT agreement between the township and Mullica Gardens was approved in April of 2014 and had Mullica Gardens paying the township a flat annual fee of $135,000 for the first five years. During the committee meeting, Mayor Lou Manzo said the original agreement had the fee changing to a variable rate beginning in year six. The township and Mullica Gardens agreed to instead change the agreement.

“(The amendment) is keeping a level payment with them over the next five years,” Manzo said.

According to a document attached to the resolution, Mullica Gardens’ annual payment to the township will remain $135,000 per year for the next five years. After the new, five-year extension of the flat payment lapses, Mullica Gardens will be required to pay 100 percent of taxes due for the remaining 20 years of its agreement with Harrison Township, but in an amount no less than $135,000.

Township committee voted to withdraw one item from its agenda: A resolution to establish an interest rate for delinquent taxes in the second quarter of 2020 was taken off the agenda at the request of township Solicitor Brian Duffield. Duffield added the committee could put the resolution back on the agenda at its next meeting, “if it is able to.”

Township officials did not discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at length during the meeting, but the township has continued to roll out new initiatives to tackle the challenges residents and businesses are facing. On April 15, 16 and 18, township officials made free medical masks available to all residents. A press release from the township said the masks were funded in part by Harrison Township Day sponsors that agreed to allow their sponsorship fee to pay for the masks following the event’s cancellation. Two masks were made available to most households, with those who work in the medical field receiving a mask for each person in their home. Over the course of three days, the township handed out approximately 5,000 masks.

Harrison Township also launched its Digital Main Street initiative this week with Restaurant Week. Ten different restaurants and eateries were featured on the township’s website and social media this week, offering a variety of discounts and deals for residents. In addition, the Harrison Township Fire District ran a trivia contest  offering 35 residents a $50 gift card to the restaurant of their choice in town. Digital Main Street continues this week with the theme of Style, Creativity and Fitness on Main through May 3.

At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, Manzo expressed optimism that  there will be a clearer picture on how the township and the state will move forward in relation to COVID-19 in the weeks ahead. He encouraged residents to continue staying safe and practice social distancing.

“Let’s all continue to stay the course and stay safe,” Manzo noted. “Hopefully, by the time we get to our next meeting on May 4, we’ll know more about where we stand.”

Manzo noted the May 4 meeting, scheduled to take place at 7 p.m., will likely also take place via teleconference.