BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Even when Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme says he wants to set his town on the right track, residents never really know what to expect.
In late January, Delhomme attempted to calm critics of his often perplexing administrative style by presenting a two-year agenda targeting most problem areas in the town’s infrastructure. By his most recent meeting, he had prepared and presented a written outline of the plan.
The ambitious plan calls for the complete repair and restoration of all streets, sidewalks and curbs in Spring Valley, new lighting from Dr. Berg to Route 59, a renovation and beautification of Memorial Park complete with new bathrooms and a new multipurpose sports complex, a new bus stop building with bathrooms and rental spaces and a complete renovation of the Louis Kurtz Civic Center, which was closed in January due to structural problems.
Renovations aside, the plan also includes new signage on Main Street, security cameras, three new housing complexes and the purchase of four buses and three garbage trucks. Clearly, the project is comprehensive, but is it feasible?
The first thought most residents might have when presented with this mammoth of a plan is whether or not it is affordable. It is no secret that Spring Valley has suffered prolonged financial neglect thanks to a string of incompetent and corrupt mayors and at face value, such a plan is far too vast for a town with such meager means.
However, instead of righting the Village’s fiscal ship before engaging in incremental work, Delhomme wants to make this Spring Valley’s big chance to impress its neighbors by fixing itself in one go. How?
A $5 million bond issuance, of course.
Yes, you read that right.
In a phone interview with the Rockland County Times, Delhomme explained the bond has yet to be approved by the board, but Village was already beginning preliminary work on the plan. “We’re waiting to get the bond,” Delhomme explained. “We will probably ask the board to submit the bond next week.”
Some benchmarks have already been set for the projects, so there is an indication of a timeline. According to Delhomme, Memorial Park will see a cleanup by March, while construction of the bus stop building is set for April. Street repairs will begin as soon as the bond is ready.
However, Delhomme added that the expenses for each of the plan’s items has not been determined and he was unsure about the final price of the project, which should be a big red flag. Delhomme expained the bidding process has not even begun, though this is typically the first step forward in any public works project.
Assessing the value of the plan is difficult without a detailed layout of the costs, but considering the fact that major renovations and even construction of buildings will be undertaken with this bond, the absence of even a cost estimate is alarming. Garbage trucks alone cost about $250,000 each and buses cost slightly more at $300,000 per vehicle. Add those up and you have almost two million dollars dedicated to vehicle purchases. Fuel, maintenance, insurance and wages for drivers might be recovered through fares, but there is no getting around the fact that just two items in this ten-point plan eat up 39 percent of the bond money.
Any sane, rational purchase requires a government body to know the price tag before they make the purchase. Contingencies will always mean a plan’s cost is unknown until its completion, but why is such an ambitious plan being undertaken without at least a bidding process? At best it is incompetence and at worst it is indicative of some ulterior motive. Whatever it is, it is definitely not in the best interest of Spring Valley.
In any other circumstances, I would merely be skeptical of this plan, but given that this is Spring Valley, where good leadership is absent and cooperation among public officials can only be described as farcical, there is legitimate cause to worry. In the month since he took his post, Delhomme already built a reputation for spectacular narcissism and defiant arrogance, but this is no civil servant termination fiasco. This is betting serious public money on a risky bet, something no official in Spring Valley should consider as the Village tries to work its way out of its long slump.