The Current By Steve Prisament Staff Writer June 14, 2007
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - There will be spraying next spring to destroy gypsy moths caterpillars, the mayor and former mayor promised at the council meeting Tuesday, June 12."We're going to spray next year," Mayor Tom Bassford said in reaction to residents' complaints about damage to their trees. "We will spray."He and Councilman Mark Hanko, who was mayor before Bassford, both said that spraying will be a top priority whether the state helps with funding or not.Township Council passed 5-0 a resolution urging the state to take financial responsibility for a statewide gypsy moth control program. Deputy Mayor Bill Ackerman and Councilman David Maxwell were absent."I don't know why the state doesn't treat this as an emergency," Bassford said. "The state and federal government get involved when there's flooding or any disaster of that type."Bassford explained why the township didn't act this year."Initially we were told by the state that they didn't know if there would be any reimbursement, so we'd have to budget the entire amount - about $130,000 -and that it fell within our cap," the mayor said. "At that time we were struggling to come up with a budget that was under the cap. There was no way we could add $130,000.""We were forced to make a decision," Hanko said. "Then we get told that our information was wrong."Bassford said that the state decided after it was too late to spray that it would reimburse 50 percent of the cost and that the money spent by the municipality would have been outside the cap.New Jersey limits how much a community can increase taxes. That amount or the percentage it represents is called a cap. Allowing for inflation, it is hard to fit new items under the cap. Therefore it is easier to budget items that are outside the cap."It was almost like they were holding a gun to our heads," Bassford said. "We couldn't fit the spraying under the cap. Then they changed the decision after it was too late to spray."The last time Galloway Township had to spray to prevent defoliation by gypsy •moth caterpillars was 1986, according to Bassford.Hanko said that people should be aware that the state never considered spraying the entire township."They came in and tested for egg masses," Hanko said. "They determined that the problem was limited. Only the areas they approved would have been sprayed. They appear to have underestimated the problem."Hanko said council would have to prioritize next year and spray to prevent gypsy moths even if it means cutting or eliminating other services.Township Manager Jill Gougher said that ground spraying has been more effective this year than spraying from the air.Bassford pointed out that the state sprayed along the Garden State Parkway and the colleges."The state paid to spray its own assets, but when it comes to municipalities, they stick it tp~us. This burden should fall on the state." He said he hoped the resolution would help."We're going to send it to , everyone at the state humanly possible who might listen to us," the mayor said। To comment on this story e-mail steve.prisament @ catamaranmedia. com.