By Michel Guarino
New Hope council members allocated time at last week’s borough council meeting to discuss the parking garage project.
The audience might have been worried by a statement from former board vice-chairman Dan Dougherty, who resigned as vice-chairman and chair of the finance committee during the March 7 workshop. ‘arrondissement.
His resignation statement noted a “profound lack of transparency” and that “the trigger for my resignation is the ‘garage’ project which I believe is mismanaged, which I believe has already wasted an enormous amount of money. voters’ money, and I feel, which, if allowed to continue, has every indication of becoming a mess that will haunt and damage the borough’s financial well-being for decades to come.
Read aloud in the official minutes of the meeting, the statement only made residents more concerned by continuing: “In my opinion, the project lacks documented objectives, presents multiple logistical and financial problems insurmountable, and these shortcomings are masked by a lack of transparency. . Worst of all, I agree with what many voters think – that there is a deliberate approach to exclude them from any input or knowledge of the goals, costs, funding sources and financial impacts of this project.
Unfortunately for the assembled crowd, technical difficulties halted the best-laid plans of the Borough’s Parking Committee, which was planning to give a presentation on the project. Council Vice-Chair Laurie McHugh, who was elected at the start of the meeting, suggested tabling it for next month and giving a brief overview instead.
In December 2020, New Hope received a state grant of $1.75 million to help fund the garage. An ad hoc committee was formed to research and report on the project with three objectives: to find a consultant for the project, to seek additional funds and to involve the community. According to council members, the committee achieved each of these goals – they retained THA Consulting, found potential tenants in the borough and organized a public presentation in September 2021.
McHugh announced that the project is currently stalled by litigation. In March 2021, the borough issued a statement alleging that Union Square, which uses the land for overflow parking, “continues to obstruct the project”. The statement said “New Hope Borough has no choice but to pursue litigation to remove this impediment.” The case has not yet been resolved, according to McHugh. The $1.7 million grant is on hold due to litigation.
Community members present asked questions about the business plan and project costs. Council members said they couldn’t provide numbers of any kind until they know the size and scope of the project, which they won’t learn until their legal case with Union Square will not be resolved.
When asked where the money for the current project and legal fees came from, council members mentioned that they were working with a budget surplus. For reference, the board approved expenditures of $200,225 for legal services in its 2022 budget.