Evesham Mayor Randy Brown looks ahead to township’s challenges and opportunities in 2017
From recreation, to taxes, redevelopment, Brown touched upon a a number of issues the township will focus on in the year ahead.
With 2017 underway and Evesham’s council officially seated, Mayor Randy Brown is wasting no time looking ahead to challenges and opportunities of the new year.
First and foremost, Brown said he hopes to continue to grow the township’s passive and active recreation opportunities.
As the community continues to grow, Brown said the need for recreation grows as well. Coupled with the township’s large population of senior citizens, Brown said citizens young and old need places where they can remain active.
For 2017, Brown said the township would most likely target work at Evesboro-Downs, which mostly holds practice fields for various youth athletics in the township.
With the size of the park, along with its location away from areas regulated by the Pinelands Commission, Brown said work at Evesboro-Downs would be far cheaper than elsewhere.
“It’s a blank canvas for us to have a state-of-the art park at some point,” Brown said.
Brown said any future project could also be designed as a partnership between the township, Burlington County, several sports through the Marlton Recreation Council and even outside groups such as the PlayMore adult sports and social club.
Evesham Saving Lives
Brown said the continuation of the Evesham Saving Lives designated driver program will be a priority.
Since the fall of 2015, private transportation services Uber and BeMyDD have provided intoxicated Evesham residents with free rides to their homes from establishments within the township that serve alcohol.
Brown said the program has reduced drunk driving arrests of Evesham residents coming home from Evesham’s bars and restaurant by more than 80 percent since it began.
“People are starting to get used to it now, and it’s a program I don’t want to ever see go away,” Brown said.
Although the program does not use taxpayer dollars, and instead relies on donations from community organizations and other businesses, Brown said the program has enough funds to sustain itself for the next several years.
Regardless, Brown said the program would be having its second annual fundraiser on Feb. 4 at the Indian Spring Country Club.
Evesham Municipal Utilities Authority
Although council decided against dissolving the Evesham Municipal Utilities Authority in 2016, Brown says he still wants to explore ways to streamline services.
Brown said the township believes such a partnership would be able to save taxpayers millions of dollars, and he noted that during the township’s analysis of the MUA, the township discovered it would be legal for it to handle the bonding for any debt the MUA may need to incur in the future.
As the MUA does not have the power to tax residents, and can instead only raise funds through rate fees, the MUA is bound by law to hold 10 percent of any bond in reserve.
The municipality, as a taxing entity, is not beholden to such regulations, and Brown pointed to that as just one way the two entities might work together.
“Have the MUA keep the 10 percent and utilize it into everyday service,” Brown said.
Several major redevelopment projects started construction in Evesham in 2016, and Brown said those projects are all expected to open or partially open in 2017.
When projects such as Renaissance Square and the new apartments along Main Street and South Maple Avenue open, Brown said the township could start assessments and begin to collect more revenue once any PILOT programs were underway.
“That will be very big to us,” Brown said.
Brown also mentioned looking for increased redevelopment of market rate homes in Evesham’s downtown.
Brown noted developers may also be more apt to invest money in Evesham’s downtown area if the newly seated board of education decides to reverse the decision to close the nearby Evans Elementary School.
Other redevelopment projects that could move forward, according to Brown, include the former Olga’s Diner and G-Boys Garden Center.
For now, Brown foresees another year with no municipal tax increase.
With the amount of development underway in town, Brown characterized the township as being at a “very good place.”
If pension contributions from the state remain stable and the winter season doesn’t bring a large amount of snow, Brown said residents shouldn’t expect to see a tax increase.
“Our goal is to continue to not raise property taxes,” Brown said.
Brown also said the township only has a few years left to pay for bond debt related to the township-owned Indian Spring Country Club, which officials have noted would turn a yearly profit if not for associated debt.
“Whoever is mayor four years from now when that golf course bond is gone, when the PILOTS are in full force and any partnership with the MUA is in full force — we’re setting it up very nicely,” Brown said.