Open Space Numbers

Yesterday, the News of Cumberland County reported that open space was dead. Lou Magazzu tossed around a figure of $90,000, feigning surprise at this cost for an open space plan:

Magazzu claimed he was surprised Tuesday to learn that the project, a blueprint for open space and recreation in Cumberland County which would put the county in line for additional state grant funding, was projected to cost about $90,000.

I am sure others that responded to the RFP were also surprised at that figure. Today, the Press of Atlantic City reported a different number:

Cumberland County freeholders are reconsidering whether to move forward on an open-space plan that could make the county eligible for new state funding for land preservation.

County officials have recommended freeholders hire a firm on a $78,000 contract to develop a plan, although Planning Director Bob Brewer has not yet identified the firm. The county has $60,000 in unspent money from two other projects, and that money could be used, county officials said. That leaves an $18,000 gap.

When considering these costs, you have to consider the millions in state and federal funding that would come our way if, and only if the county institutes a workable open-space plan.

There seems to be more confusion surrounding this entire debate.  A freind that attended the meetings provides this insight, and asks some questions:

Magazzu seemed to imply that it would be too difficult to fund the open-space consultant this year. When he was reminded that the open space plan leverages other funds, he seemed confused. Ken Mecouch, county administrator, said the RFP’s were received and the cost would be $90,000.

If there were RFP’s that came in lower than $90,000, why did Ken Mecouch use the highest figure? Isn’t it proper procedure, if multiple bids were received, to quote the highest and lowest? It seems that subterfuge is afoot.

Magazzu said who could help with the funding?  When the Freeholders finally agreed to move ahead with the open space plan, proponents repeatedly told them to create an open space committee with citizen involvement. This committee would have seen this coming.

The AC Press article mentions several sources of alternate funding, such as the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The county claims it found no sources for alternate funding – my only guess is that Lou Magazzu prohibited them from even searching for sources. Lu wants to bury any chance of an open-space plan that he will stop at nothing to place roadblocks. According to my source:

No planning board member or staff attempted to get matching funds during this period (over 6 months). I found out that an incredibly qualified organization answered the RFP for about $60,000 –  so….what’s going on? Is McCouch lying with the $90,000 figure, and now the $78,000 figure? Have the freeholders already selected a consultant who is charging more than the lowest bid, but gives contributions?

Choosing a high bidder that was a devoted campaign contributor has happened before, as MagazzuWatch has reported. There are so many questions that linger.  I will be sure to report on the progress (or lack thereof) as this story continues…

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One Response to Open Space Numbers

  1. Calhoun says:

    OK, now we’re getting somewhere. If an RFP went out and bids were received, then we need to know what the bids were. And if any good proposals from qualified companies/organizations were lower than $90K then something is not right here. In the case presented, it would seem that Lou is using the $90K number to make the argument that the study is too expensive at this time even though the study would not cost that much. If so, this is politics at its worst.

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