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Invest in the Future by Being Solvent Today

We are constantly reminded by Mayor Pringle how much pressure the budget is under this year. We heard it in his showdowns with the municipal workers, and later with the teachers, over their salaries and most recently with his showdown with the council over the plan to consolidate police services. Listening to the mayor it sounds like the situation is pretty grim and I have no reason not to believe him on this. So why are we “investing” (borrowing and spending ) hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects that won’t pay off for years, if at all?

When defending the planned improvements downtown Mayor Pringle expressed confidence that the economy would come back in a couple of years and, when it does, he wanted Belmar to be “ready”. But what if he’s wrong? The great depression lasted over ten years. President Obama is repeating all the mistakes of Hoover and Roosevelt, but on a grander scale. It may be a long time before shoppers return to our stores – fancy streetlights, sidewalks and garbage cans notwithstanding.

Then there’s all the money being “invested” on the marina. The profitability of the marina is not really clear even during good times and the pleasure boat industry is particularly susceptible to the ups and downs of the economy. Plus our marina has a serious handicap in that the Shark River is a “dead end” that does not connect to the inter-coastal waterway. Boaters have to go out in the open ocean to access our marina. It’s certainly not clear to me that all this investment in the marina will pay off anytime soon.

Another item I think would be a serious malinvestment is solar panels for the school as reccomended by Gene Creamer of the Environmental Commision. Gene is a good friend and great neighbor, but I think it would be a mistake to invest money in a project like that at this time. I remember all the time, energy and money wasted on the plan to have the state’s first geo-thermal school. It would have taken decades to recover the cost. Even the most optimistic projections on solar panels don’t show any benefit for six or seven years. Our budget crises is now. Six or seven years from now there may be even better energy technology available, hopefully economically feasible technology that doesn’t require the huge amount of subsidies that the solar industry currently enjoys, with money coerced from taxpayers, ratepayers, and utility companies. And with sensible leadership, our budget might not be under such pressure in six or seven years.

Right now, as in the early thirties, the smart money is hunkering down. The people in 1932 who thought the economy would be back soon and wanted to be “ready”  lost all their money. Let’s not make the same mistake in Belmar in 2010.

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