• Joseph F. Berenato

Mullica Twp. OK’s sharing with town


Mayor Kristi Hanselmann explained the purpose of the Ordinance No. 4-2021, a bond ordinance related to the proposed construction of the new municipal complex. (Courtesy Photo)

MULLICA TWP.—On April 16, the Mullica Twp. Committee held a special meeting at 6 p.m. via Zoom teleconferencing software.


During the meeting, the committee voted on Resolution No. 98-2021, authorizing negotiations and terms of a joint court with the town of Hammonton/continuation of feasibility studies of shared services for tax assessor, tax collector and CFO and employee reconciliation plans.


The language of the resolution states that, at the April 8 meeting of the Mullica Twp. Committee, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) presented “its feasibility study cost saving analysis regarding a municipal court shared service arrangement between the town of Hammonton and the township of Mullica (the “Parties”) which demonstrates that the Parties should proceed with negotiation of the terms and conditions of an agreement for a joint municipal court as permitted by N.J.S.A. 2B:12-1, et. seq. and N.J.S.A. 40A:65-1, et. seq; and ... an employment reconciliation plan is required to be prepared as part of the shared service agreement.”


The resolution authorizes Mayor Kristi Hanselmann—who also serves as the township’s director of revenue and finance—Committeeperson Chris Silva and township solicitor James Franklin to negotiate the terms and conditions for the joint municipal court, and to prepare the employment reconciliation plan.


The resolution also authorizes the aforementioned individuals “to proceed with the request for a made to DCA to conduct a feasibility study pertaining to possible shared services with the township [sic] of Hammonton to provide shared services for the positions of tax assessor, tax collector and chief financial officer.”


“To facilitate the process, and subject to the results of the DCA Feasibility Study which shall be presented to this governing body and the public at a future meeting, the mayor/director of revenue and finance, committee person Silva and the township solicitor are authorized to enter into negotiations with the town of Hammonton to prepare a draft shared service agreement for one or more such services which shall be subject to review and approval by this governing body at a future committee meeting; and ... to prepare an employment reconciliation plan which shall be referenced in any approved shared service agreement,” the resolution states.


The resolution was approved.


Also on the agenda was Ordinance No. 4-2021, a bond ordinance related to the proposed construction of the new municipal complex.


“The bond ordinance that’s on for tonight is first reading, which is by title only. There will be a second reading and public comment at that next meeting,” Franklin said.


Hanselmann explained the purpose of the ordinance, noting that it was “not for the down payment for the building.”


“It is not going to increase our taxes right now, and it is not money that we are going to be encumbering right now,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that current cost estimates of the municipal complex were strictly from the architect.


“Until we move forward with Phase II of the project, and we receive construction drawings, and we go out to bid, and we receive bids on this project, we will not know the cost of the building ... When we get through Phase II, and we actually have a number for the cost of the building, if that number exceeds what this committee is comfortable expending, then we can put the project on pause and we can pay any costs that we have encumbered along the way to get to that point. That will not exceed the $300,000. At that point, we would bond the $300,000 to pay for the costs incurred to get through Phase II. This bond ordinance is only there if we put the project on hold and we need to pay for costs encumbered to get up to the point that we hit the pause button. Otherwise, the bond won’t be in effect, and we will not have to encumber those funds,” Hanselmann said.


Franklin said that the original schedule with the Atlantic County Improvement Authority “contemplated that, at this point in time, the municipality would be adopting a resolution and an ordinance that would basically move the entire project forward.”


“The reason why we’ve shifted that schedule back and done the ordinance introduction tonight is to allow all the things that everybody’s talking about to actually happen before any commitment is made to proceed with the project or with any dollar amount for issuance of bonds or lease purchase agreement. Before anything further is done, Phase II will be prepared,” Franklin said.


Hanselmann concurred.


“We shifted this to have this bond ordinance on there, so that way the original intent was to have the approval of the ordinance to move forward with the bond, but we decided to go this route instead, so that way it gives us another time to make sure that the cost is within reach and within reason, and not just push forward with this project,” Hanselmann said.


During the meeting, township clerk Kimberly Johnson introduced the ordinance by title only.

“Bond ordinance appropriating $300,000 and authorizing the issuance of $285,000 in bonds or notes of the township of Mullica in the county of Atlantic, New Jersey, for the construction of a new township hall and related improvements,” Johnson read.


The committee voted to approve the introduction and set the hearing date for the committee’s next meeting.


The Mullica Twp. Committee will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. on April 27.


On April 8, the Mullica Twp. Committee held a special meeting at 6 p.m. via Zoom teleconferencing software to discuss shared services with both the town of Hammonton and Galloway Twp., as well as a proposed new municipal complex and to hear the results of a manpower study of the Mullica Twp. Police Department.


The shared services with Hammonton as they appeared on the agenda were for a joint municipal court, as well as the chief financial officer and the tax department. However, Mayor Kristi Hanselmann noted that the latter two items were being pulled from the agenda to be revisited at the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on April 27.


“The reason for this was that the DCA (New Jersey Department of Community Affairs) needed some additional information, and the committee wanted to wait and have the DCA speak to the employees about their work and their everyday activities. Those two departments are going to be put on hold, and the presentation will be held on April 27,” Hanselmann said. 


During the meeting, the committee heard a presentation by Richard Richardella, of the DCA’s Division of Local Government Services regarding the potential of a joint municipal court with Hammonton.


“The purpose of the presentation of the municipal court is for us to explore the feasibility as to whether or not we should enter into a contracted service for the municipal court. Why? Because we want to be efficient and effective with these services. We want to optimize cost savings while safeguarding the operation, and we want to explore the lost financial revenues from the municipal court operations, and we want to explore the option of shared services,” Richardella said.


Richardella’s presentation focused on the financial state of the courts in Mullica Twp.


“Mullica has been losing revenues within the court operation over the past five years, amounting to over $375,000. Therefore, the court is running in a deficit of approximately $65,000 a year,” Richardella said.


Hanselmann noted that equated to roughly 1.5 cents for taxpayers.


Richardella said that, based on the review and evaluation, Mullica Twp. should “explore the feasibility of shared services and enter into a contracted service with a neighboring municipality and no longer maintain their own municipal court.”


“It’s too costly to operate. I have to tell you, there’s many, many municipalities that are getting out of the court business. They can’t afford it anymore,” Richardella said.


According to Richardella’s presentation, Mullica Twp.’s existing costs for their court system include: judge, $12,000; prosecutor, $12,000; public defender, $6,500; court administrator, $96,838; deputy court administrator, $25,023. The total cost is $152,361, not including costs to maintain police security.


“The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts states that you have to have a law enforcement officer with a firearm present in the court room, so that’s a costly aspect that the municipality has to incur,” Richardella said.


Other expenses include a telephone, heat, electric, judges’ bench security and recording devices.


Richardella said that Hammonton has proposed a contract for shared services “to operate the municipal court operations with a proposed cost savings of $114,000, or over $570,000 in five years, and I think that equates to 2.5 cents per year.”


Later the meeting, the township committee also voted to adopt Resolution No. 97-2021, a resolution entering into a shared services agreement with the Township of Galloway for the purpose of sharing the services of a construction code official and plumbing subcode official.


Hanselmann explained the purpose for the resolution, noting that John Holroyd, the township’s construction official, had applied for and been offered a position as a construction code official in Galloway Twp.


“Rather than having an independent contract, our employee came to me and said, hey, maybe we could do this as a shared service, and Mullica Twp. gets to make some money by providing our employee, with no reduced time, no reduced services to Mullica; the only thing he is doing is giving time to Galloway without reducing anything here in Mullica,” Hanselmann said.


The language of the ordinance noted that a previous ordinance, Resolution No. 96-2021, authorized Holroyd to “provide interim services to Galloway pending negotiation of a mutually agreeable Shared Service Agreement ... Mullica and Galloway have determined it to be in the mutual interest of each governing body to enter into a shared service agreement to provide those services.”


The resolution also outlined the scope of work for the shared construction official.


“The Mullica official shall be responsible for all the duties of the construction code official and plumbing subcode official required by law and be available to take phone calls regarding Galloway Twp. business during the remainder of the work week during the term of this agreement. This agreement does not include Mullica providing any additional clerical staff or any legal representation. The parties recognize that Mullica and the Mullica official may need to modify the scheduled days and times for each municipality based upon obligations such as inspections, court appearances, etc. The municipalities shall work together to ensure that the schedule is flexible to the extent possible to ensure that each municipality is provided the anticipated number of hours each week from the Mullica official. Notwithstanding the above statement, the Mullica official shall continue to be responsible to provide primary services to satisfy the needs of Mullica Twp.,” the agreement states.


The shared services agreement will remain in place for four years.


“The term of this agreement shall be April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2025. Either party may terminate the contract upon 60 days written notice to the other party. This Agreement may also be terminated by failure to remit payment ... The parties further acknowledge that this agreement shall be null and void in the event of either a voluntary or involuntary termination of John Holroyd during the term of this agreement,” the agreement states.


According to the agreement, Galloway Twp. will pay Mullica Twp. in quarterly installments of $19,375.


“Mullica Twp. will be paid $77,750; John will be paid $55,000, so it’s a profit to our town of $22,750 ... That’s a half a penny, just for providing the shared services with Galloway. It shows how shared services work. By sharing employees, you are able to save the taxpayers money,” Hanselmann said.


The resolution was adopted, with committee member Chris Silva recusing himself from the vote.


The township also heard a presentation by Richardella regarding police manpower and organization.


“The purpose of the presentation is to provide an impartial and comprehensive review of the Mullica Twp. services. We want to identify the most efficient and effective way to deliver services to the community,” Richardella said.


“The division of local government likes to implement shared services and any of the employees who are involved in this, we like to do the shared services through attrition and/or finding soft landings. We identify opportunities to achieve staffing adjustments in an equitable manner, and, in this particular case, we are exploring all the options of a shared service,” Richardella said.


Current costs per eight-hour shift, for one chief, one captain, one sergeant, two corporals, one detective, seven patrol officers, 13 total sworn officers, two PTE Class II officers, two PTE Class officers (paid by the board of education) and one FT matron, equal $1,582,606.


The proposed costs for a 12-hour shift—for one chief, one lieutenant, four sergeants, one detective, nine patrol officers, 16 total sworn officers, two PTE Class III officers (paid by the board of education) and one FT matron—equal $1,554,742.


Richardella’s presentation noted that the new schedule would also “create a new command structure by generating six supervisory positions, thus protecting the municipality against future ‘failure to supervise’ lawsuits.”


Richardella said that the proposed shift and organization is projected to save $55,000 annually in overtime costs, as well as 24 percent in future overtime costs and a reduction in 81.8 working days annually. 


“With that $55,000 savings, that included the promotions to have four sergeants instead of one,” Hanselmann said, noting that savings would reduce tax bills by approximately 1.25 cents.


By eliminating the Class II officers, Richardella said that retention issues Mullica Twp. has been experiencing with said personnel will also be reduced.


 “Many times, Class II officers are hired, and then, after Mullica trains them, they move on to another municipality. This way, by increasing the number of officers in the department to 16, we don’t have that issue anymore. It’s very costly to train an officer; he has to be paid while he’s in the police academy, and then when he comes out you have to train him again. Then, what happens is another department will steal him or poach him from you, and you lose him, and you have to start the cycle all over again,” Richardella said.


Richardella said that the new shifts and increase in manpower will reduce the amount of days worked by each officer to 147 per year, down from 229.


“It’s an enormous savings to them, and it increases the manpower for the municipality. By doing the 12-hour shifts, and by proposing the new table of organization and eliminating the captain, we were able to save approximately $28,000 with this program,” Richardella said.


Richardella noted the benefits of the combined tax savings between this proposal and the joint municipal court.


“You can see how much of a savings the municipality will have by entering into one of the shared services that we’re recommending,” Richardella said.


Also during the meeting, the committee discussed the proposed construction for a new municipal complex in Mullica Twp. Hanselmann said that the purpose for exploring a new municipal building was because of the age and condition of the existing structure.


“Our town hall was built in the ’60s; our building is 60 years old. It has outlived its useful life. The building has been needing to be replaced for a long time,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that the conditions in the police department, which is housed in the basement of the current building, were a major impetus.


“The police department is not handicap accessible. They do not have running water down there; they do not have a bathroom. They do not have a cell; they do not have a holding area. The police department absolutely needs to come out of the basement; there’s mold and water intrusion, too. When you bring them out of the basement, and you build a building for them, it doesn’t make any sense to do it independent of the rest of the town hall, because the rest of town hall is just as old. When we met with the professionals, we said, OK, can we renovate this? Can we add on to this? Can we do a pole-barn style building? We want to do this as cheap as possible,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that a joint municipal court with Hammonton would help to lower the costs of the new construction.


“If we were to put the court into this building, the cost would be extremely higher than what they are at the $5 million estimate, because you have all of the requirements ... you have to have separate chambers for the judge, you have to have the bulletproof glass; there’s all different construction requirements when you have a municipal court in your building. If you’re building a new building—which we are—then you have to come into conformity with all of those requirements. Not having the court in the building will save an extreme amount of money,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that $5 million estimate, which is down from an original estimate of $6.4 million, is not “set in stone.”


“The $5 million is an estimate from the architect. The architect is estimating this based on other projects that he has worked on to give a rough number ... we have only entered Phase I of this, which is conceptual drawings from our architect. Once we decide to proceed with this building, then we enter Phase II, and so on and so forth. Once we enter Phase II, and then we receive the construction drawings, that is when it will go out to bid, and that’s when we’ll receive RFPs (requests for proposals), and, at that point in time is when we will have a cost estimate,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that the cost of the building is derived from the class of building that is required for the bond necessary to fund its construction. 


“When you bond a building, normally you have to have five percent of the payment for the down payment. We don’t have that type of money in reserve. If we go through the ACIA (Atlantic County Improvement Authority), we don’t have that five percent down, and they will offer us a 30-year bond. When you bond a building for 30 years, it has to be a certain class of building. A pole-barn style building is a Class C building; you cannot bond a Class C building for 30 years, so we cannot do that type of construction. It has to be other type of construction,” Hanselmann said.


William McLees, the principal of William McLees Architecture, affirmed Hanselmann’s statement.


“You’re not able to project that amortization out beyond 20 years, because that’s directly linked to the probable age or useful life of that building in wood frame, as opposed to what we’re looking at here, which is a pre-engineered steel frame building, which will be a Class B building, which you can project out 30 years,” McLees said.


McLees gave a presentation regarding the proposed complex, showing concept drawings that are available for public download on the township’s website.


“This is the updated plan that we worked through with the team that’s advising us on the township’s needs here for the new building,” McLees said.


McLees detailed some updates to office space and building infrastructure to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness.


“The plan has shrunk by some 15 percent; now, the total square footage, including the existing public works building, is 14,000 square feet. We adjusted our budget numbers accordingly ... working through our numbers, we came up with a total revised number of $5 million for the building,” McLees said.


McLees noted that the addition of demolition, site development costs and contingencies brings the total to $5.6 million.


“If you break out the new construction costs and use that number divided by the new construction area, it’s $409 per square foot,” McLees said.


McLees said that the original concept included the addition of a second floor, which would have provided more storage, but that had been eliminated due to cost concerns.


“We’ve looked to find storage space in other areas on the first floor ... I think the number is currently hovering around 1,500 square feet, if you add up all of the storage spaces, but certainly we are continuing to look to see what we can do to improve upon that as well,” McLees said.


McLees said that, by eliminating the second floor, they were also able to eliminate the need for stairs and an elevator.


“There’s a cost-savings. The elevator alone is going to be some $150,000 to $170,000 to install, so that’s a savings there,” McLees said. 


McLees reiterated that the project is still in the very early states of design.


“We have a lot of ground to cover before this is all said and done,” he said.


Hanselmann also spoke regarding the potential cost to taxpayers for the project.


“The projected cost, for every $1 million bonded—so, in this case, say we bond $5 million—is a $50,000 a year bond payment, which is just over one penny. One penny equates to $10 a year for a $100,000 assessed home. If you have a $100,000 assessed home, that’s $50 a year. If you have a $200,000 assessed home, it’s $100 a year,” Hanselmann said.


Hanselmann said that the five-cent increase is “why we’re exploring cost-saving measures.”


“If we take in the cost savings just from the court and the police department that were proposed tonight by Mr. Rick Richardella, which was five cents, approximately, we will not have a tax impact at all, by doing this building and by doing the shared services and the changes in the police department. Then, if we move forward with further shared services, we could have an even further reduction of the cost to the township that we could reduce taxes or we could put it toward road infrastructure and purchasing assets for the town,” Hanselmann said.


The Mullica Twp. Committee held a special meeting on April 16 at 6 p.m. to take formal action regarding the proposed municipal complex and shared services with the town of Hammonton.