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Mount Arlington Mayor: Consolidation Not the Way to Go

5-12-14

Some municipalities have consolidated in New Jersey, but the concept has hit a road block in other communities. Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he is opposed to the idea of consolidation and that he believes in shared services.

“I am an opponent of the concept of consolidation because I don’t think consolidation is the way to go,” said Ondish. “I believe in shared services, I really do. It does not cost that much to have a municipal body, governing body and a mayor, a council, people who can keep local control and keep things accountable.”

Ondish said that some view the idea of consolidation as bigger being better and that he believes the larger a municipality gets, the less accountable and less efficient operations will be.

Recently Courage to Connect NJ Executive Director Gina Genovese said that Mount Arlington and Roxbury were starting an initiative to combine both towns and school districts. Ondish said that Genovese has been to the towns but that it is a business for her that she is trying to promote consolidation although it may not be the right choice in all municipalities.

“I like Gina, I really do. I think she has the best intentions, but unfortunately she’s in business,” said Ondish. “This is a business to her, trying to bring things together and unfortunately I think there’s places where it doesn’t belong.”

As for the consolidation of the Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, Ondish said that the Princetons were already sharing services and schools, so it made sense for the municipalities to come together.

Although Ondish does not agree with consolidation, Mount Arlington currently share services with Roxbury as both municipalities send students to Roxbury High School. Mount Arlington shares health care with Mount Olive, shares a construction office with Jefferson and quartz with six towns, according to Ondish.

Groups like Courage to Connect say that consolidation will lower taxes, but Ondish says that it is not true. He said currently Mount Arlington is the sixth lowest paying tax town in Morris County.

As Ondish runs for reelection, his opponent has accused the Mount Arlington government of not being open-minded to differing points of view. Ondish said that residents should be concerned about the service given to the town.

“It’s not about just money, it’s about your services and the amount of services that you get and the kind of service that you get,” Ondish said.

Ondish also said that if a merger or consolidation were to happen, it would cost about $1,000 more.

“I want it to die on the vine right now. It doesn’t make sense. It’s going to cost us more money,” Ondish said.