WANTAGE — The Wantage Township Committee is expected to vote a special-assessment ordinance at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Administrator James Doherty reviewed the possible tier system for the special assessment. He said that the tax assessor, Kristy Lockburner, is autonomous from the courts and the Wantage Committee, according to state law.
Lockburner did not yet proceed with the special assessment because she was researching and reviewing the tier system. After the Chief Financial Officer gives Lockburner the bottom-line figure of the loan and interest to be paid back, the committee would be able to review, evaluate and consent to the special assessment possibility.
The processFirst the Friends of Lake Neepaulin would pay 10 percent of the loan to the Department of Environmental Protection. The remaining 90 percent would be covered in a special assessment.
The first- tier of the special assessment will be the lakefront properties along Lake Neepaulin. These people will pay the most. The second tier will be properties across the street from Lake Neepaulin, with a view of the lake. The third tier will be everyone else, about 600 properties, which will be billed at a lower amount.
Doherty further explained that the special assessment cannot be put on the quarterly tax bill. It would have to be sent out as a special assessment bill, once a year.
The Township needs to collect enough money by March in order to make the first payment toward repaying the DEP loan.
Doherty also said if Tier One or Two feels the special assessment burden to be “onerous," one may come to the tax collector and seek a payment plan in order to waive late fees.
Lieutenant Mayor Bill Gaechter recommended that Lockburner and Tax Collector Melissa Caton be present at the next meeting.
Additional chargesDoherty brought up charges to be included in the special assessment, which were incurred through the co-signing of the DEP Dam Loan with FOLN.
The amounts were: $9,102.65 for internal administrative costs over the 17-year history and $40,472.94 of legal costs.
Attorney Michael Garofalo said that Wantage Township was sued three times.
"No one abused their privilege as a citizen," he said. "Also it would be wrong to 'plow legal charges back' and punish everone's right as a citizen.
The Committee unanimously voted to include the administrative costs of $9,102.65 in the special assessment amount, while excluding the $40K in legal fees.