Published On: Fri, Sep 2nd, 2016

Four Contenders Vie for Vacant New Hope Borough Council Seat, Including Bureaucrat Involved in Proposed Massive Parking Rate Increase

(left to right) Revitalization Committee Member Jules Sghiaiti, Borough Council Member Connie Gering, and Council President Bill Scandone.

(left to right) Revitalization Committee Member Jules Sghiaiti, Borough Council Member Connie Gering, and Council President Bill Scandone.

Four candidates for the New Hope Borough Council slot being vacated by Cliff Montgomery will introduce themselves and be interviewed at a public meeting Sept. 20, including one who has been instrumental in the formulation of a proposal to raise parking meter rates dramatically.

The four New Hope residents –Dan Dougherty, Tod Mershon, Kurt Fuoti, and Joseph Franlin —  each seek to fill the vacancy caused by Council Member Cliff Montgomery’s resignation effective Oct. 1.

Dan Dougherty.

Dan Dougherty.

Daniel J. Dougherty lives on West Ferry Street, graduated Temple University in 1994 with a degree in actuarial studies, and retired after serving in human resources at Independence Blue Cross.

“While I am a relatively recent addition to New Hope, I feel my background in finance and human resources would allow me to make an immediate contribution by assisting my fellow council members and the council president in the evaluation of contracts, budgets and planning,” explained Dougherty. “I’m also very interested and excited to serve on the various committees that focus on improving the quality of life for our residents and businesses.”

Tod Mershon is an area marketing manager at mortgage lender Homebridge Financial Services, Inc. He was previously employed with First Interstate Financial Corp, Gateway Funding, and Gateway Funding (aka Ivy Mortgage).

He graduated from Rutgers University in 1986 with studies in political science and economics, and has lived for two years on Summer Lea Court with his wife, daughter, and an Australian Shepherd. His son is a sheriff’s officer in Somerset County, N.J.

Tod Mershon.

Tod Mershon.

“I have a history of community involvement from when we lived in Hillsborough, N.J.,” observed Mershon. “I served on the Hillsborough planning committee, on the capital planning board, and on the open space advisory committee.

“We’ve loved New Hope forever, we always came to visit, and I’d like to be involved,” he added. “New Hope had its tough times after the floods, but the redevelopment efforts in the borough’s center represent smart continuing growth as a destination for people to visit.”

Kurt Fuoti is a senior vice president/senior market lender in the Middle Market Banking Group – Northern New Jersey at Fulton Bank of New Jersey. Previously, he worked at Sun National Bank, TD Bank, and CoreStates Bank.

Fuoti moved to the Waterworks section of New Hope in June 2015 from Yardley, and is a 1992 graduate of Drexel University with an MBA in Finance, and a BA in political science from Penn State.

Kurt Fuoti.

Kurt Fuoti.

“My background in banking may be of assistance to the council regarding fiscal discipline and budgeting,” said Fuoti. “I enjoy preserving our heritage and historical foundations. While I’m pro-business, and support many local merchants, smart growth and planning remains an essential cornerstone of long-term success.

“Natural resources require protecting, while balancing recreation and sports for our enjoyment,” he added.

Candidate Joseph Franlin, a resident of New Street, is chairperson of the New Hope Revitalization Committee, and is a director of New Hope Arts. He was unable to be reached for this article. A borough hall spokeseperson suggested Franlin might be vacationing overseas.

As first reported in the Free Press in October 2015, Franlin’s committee recommended raising parking rates and extending parking meter hours of operation to compensate for a shortfall caused by a mobile phone-based payment system the borough adopted the preceding spring, according to multiple sources.

When Borough Council in 2015 entered into licensing and other agreements with Parkmobile, a service that allows enrolled drivers to pay for metered parking from their mobile phones for a fee, the new arrangement was touted as consumer-friendly revenue enhancement.

But user sign-ups for the application exceeded expectations in the early months, and since motorists are notified by phone 15 minutes before their meters expire, parking ticket revenue has declined, say sources.

meterParking meter payments and parking tickets make up a significant portion of New Hope’s annual operating budget.

When New Hope Borough Council’s revitalization committee said the borough should consider raising parking rates and extending meter operation times in 2015, Borough Council under President Claire Shaw appeared to table the matter, but current President Bill Scandone is said to be considering the move, which could see parking meter rates double on Main Street during peak tourist season hours, according to multiple sources close to the situation. Proponents argue that rates could also be reduced in underutilized areas.

The borough spokesperson refused to confirm that the parking rate increase will be considered at an Oct. 18 meeting of New Hope Borough Council. Borough Council President Bill Scandone did not respond immediately to questions about his support for a parking meter rate increase or whether Franlin had submitted a new recommendation, or simply pursued the Revitalization Committee’s previous advice to institute higher parking meter fees.

 

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