Owning Lake Neepaulin can benefit Wantage

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The New Jersey Safe Dam Act emphasizes, as in the case of the Lake Neepaulin and other dam rehabilitation projects, that those residents of a community who benefit from the improvement of an unsafe dam shall be obligated to pay a special assessment to cover the cost of those renovations. Lately, in Wantage many voices have been asking, How do I benefit? Show me, how do I benefit? I never use the lake. I can't see the lake. I live nowhere near the lake.

Before the repetitious questions can be answered, those who sincerely want to know the reply, first, have to better understand the meaning of the word, benefit. According to Webster's New World Dictionary of American Language, the word benefit is defined as "Anything contributing to an improvement in condition; an advantage or a help." To put it simply, a benefit is something that does good for somebody. It is something that produces favorable effects, advantages or benefits of some kind. It is something that assists others in bringing about a better condition; it saves people from future disadvantages or problems. It protects people from harm. A benefit does not necessarily have to be something that is realized or is actually in one's hand. It can also be something that could potentially occur at some point in the future.

Using a lake for recreation, viewing the beauty of a lake, and living near a lake all may produce benefits, but they are not the sole benefits offered by a lake. Many additional benefits are related to the presence of a lake in a community, and these benefits even extend widely into the far extremities of any community. When a lake is well maintained, it is an asset to a community because the lake often attracts potential house hunters into the community to look for the purchase of a home. A lake also helps to guarantee the preservation of property values and, often, increases, or at least, stabilizes the value of homes. In the case of Lake Neepaulin, the lake provides a close-by source of water for fire suppression; it, with high probability, assures less likelihood of the need to hydrofrac in order to locate new sources of well water for those residents who have a limited supply; it is accountable for preserving the environment and the ecosystem for miles and miles throughout every community through which the tributaries of the lake happen to travel; it prevents the disappearance of wildlife habitats and thwarts the death of many magnificent aquatic animals; it secures a valuable element (water) for future generations so that life, on this planet can continue to exist But you may be saying, I don't have any of these problems so what do I care? How does any of this help me? Well, if you possess any scruples or morals, you should care because even the concern for other people's welfare can end up being a blessing or a benefit to help you, personally.

Beyond what has already been mentioned are more specific benefits which, in all probability, will also produce some type of an advantage or favorable effect on you. The rehabilitation of the Lake Neepaulin Dam will save you the expenditure of extensive future expense because the upgrades to the dam will remove the threat of the dam's likelihood to breech or overtop to damage whatever might stand in the way. With such risk eliminated, the residents of Lake Neepaulin will not have to worry about paying money for the lawsuits of victims or for the awards of monetary remuneration to any injured, grieving or suffering victims. This equates into the certainty that your tax dollars will not have to, needlessly, go up higher and higher in order to compensate for all the parties who may be harmed. Consequently, you will not be wasting your money as would be the case if the dam were never brought up to appropriate safety codes.

Most significantly, however, assuming the responsibility of paying a special assessment to repay the loan to renovate the Lake Neepaulin Dam will benefit you, personally, because the township is obligated to pick up the tab if the private owner defaults, and should the township not be able to do this, the state would penalize the township by fining the township more money than was originally owed, plus the interest for the unpaid debt (this equates, once again, to more money for you, the taxpayer, to eventually pay off); the township bond rating would quickly drop so that the township would have more difficulty in selling bonds for capital improvements (this equates to the fact that the township would have to, somehow, sell even more bonds {likely an impossibility} or go without many capital improvements unless, again, your taxes increased, and you, the taxpayer, paid).

Since this increase in taxes would affect all the taxpayers in the entire Township of Wantage, renovating the dam and paying a special assessment would be of great benefit to everyone in Wantage and would be far less expensive than accepting the alternative.

It should be understood, however, that right now, no special assessment will be assigned because, in order to meet the demands of the opposition to the dam rehabilitation and to calm them, the Township illegally raised FOLN's share of the assessment assigned by a court-approved consent agreement from 10 percent to 50 percent of the loan, which obviously presented a strong likelihood that FOLN might default. With a default, an outstanding debt would not be assigned to the members of an organization (which is something the opposition wanted very much to occur) when the organization is officially certified as a corporation because, as in any business corporation, the corporate shell protects the membership. Friends of Lake Neepaulin is a corporation. Its membership is protected by the corporate shell.

The only way to resolve the problem and to save the public huge expense in the future, then, was for the Township to take ownership of the property because, once the Township owned the lake, all the residents in the entire municipality of Wantage would become obligated for paying the debt through their taxes since the Township would own those facilities. Taxes would, then, be adjusted to reflect a small increase to accommodate the repayment of the outstanding debt (an amount much lower than what would be if this plan were never adopted).

The Township could never implement such a stratagem if FOLN did not cooperate with the Township in the execution of this plan, or if FOLN had decided to go to court to fight the illegal increase of FOLN s share of the loan. However, Friends of Lake Neepaulin was amenable to turning over all of its assets to the Township, even though FOLN had spent a significant amount of money on the purchase and renovation of the lake properties and on preliminary projects necessary to complete the rehabilitation of the dam. The organization agreed to turn over the properties without charging the Township any money so that the citizens of Wantage would, eventually, be able to, not only save money on taxes, but would be protected from the terrible threats of many possible repercussions.

Paying a little more in taxes to repay the debt for the dam rehabilitation and to maintain the lake properties belonging to the Township actually is an insurance policy which protects the community against a host of problems that could possibly rear an ugly head should that insurance policy not be implemented. Therefore, since an insurance policy protects people from future problems, the entire community, according to Webster, would benefit, in many ways from the presence of the lake, from the renovation of the dam, from the Township s ownership of the property, and from paying taxes to liquidate the debt created by the loan. Hence all citizens, in accordance with Public Policy statutes, are obligated to pay. If anyone should be upset over this fact, he should thank the ones who demanded that the entire community should pay or else face law suits brought forward by them and, this ultimatum was definitely not, brought forward by the Township Committee. The Township Committee, the former Township attorney, the Township Business Administrator, Friends of Lake Neepaulin, and the members of FOLN have done no wrong. They have followed the laws of New Jersey.

Betsy Jable


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