Interlaken will receive requests for proposals to get prices from various companies on what it will cost to do a feasibility study on the proposed merger between the borough and neighboring Loch Arbour.
At last week’s Borough Council meeting, the council approved the final wording on the RFP and authorized Borough Administrator Lori Reibrich to advertise it. She said the proposals would probably be sent out and advertised within one week and there is a 30-day deadline to submit a proposal.
The council unanimously authorized the RFP last month but wanted to proof the text before it was sent out.
Loch Arbour Mayor Paul Fernicola attended the council meeting and urged it to move forward. He said little has been done since the merger proposal was presented to the council last Dec. 17.
“We have had no response and our residents deserve a response…and there is a sense of frustration that we have not received any response,” he said.
Fernicola said that a previous offer to merge with neighboring Allenhurst was basically a waste of time and he urged Interlaken officials to move forward.
“Allenhurst was not candid with us,” he said. “We lacked a truly willing partner.”
Interlaken Mayor Michael Nohilly said the council is moving forward by issuing the RFP.
“We are moving forward to get our own information…but we need to be prudent and do our due diligence,” he said.
Fernicola had asked earlier for a straw poll to be taken among council members to see if there is enough interest to proceed.
Council members said they are not comfortable with a straw poll at this time because it is too early in the process.
“We don’t have enough information to make a hypothetical decision,” Councilwoman Mindy Horowitz said.
“We need to be fair to both sides and have information for both towns,” Councilman Merv Franks said.
Council President Robert White said the council was waiting to move on the proposal until the two new council members (Horowtiz and John Gunn) were seated at the beginning of the year.
“Out total focus needs to be on what’s best for Interlaken,” Gunn said.
Under their merger proposal, Loch Arbour would pay Interlaken $5 million over a 10-year period with the money generated through a Loch Arbour special-taxing district comprised only of village residents. The money would be issued in 10 payments and used to retire Interlaken’s debt and to eventually create surplus.
Legislation is currently pending that would allow for the creation of these special-taxing districts but one can also be set up with approval from the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) if the legislation is not approved.
Under the merger proposal, in a feasibility study put forward by Loch Arbour it shows that there would be a 24 percent tax savings for Interlaken residents for the first 10 years after the merger, or about $2,000 a year for the average home.
The Interlaken tax rate for an average home (assessed at $620,795) would drop from $8,400 to about $6,400, or by about 24 percent, during the first 10 years of the merger while the Loch Arbour tax rate for an average home ($1,051,702) would drop from $21,800 to $14,200, or by 35 percent, which includes the $5 million in special tax assessments to Loch Arbour residents.
After the first 10 years, the Interlaken tax rate should remain reduced about 21 percent and the Loch Arbour rate by 49 percent since the $5 million will then be paid off.