Editor’s note: Jeff Hansen and Denice DiCarlo to learn more about their platforms and plans should they win election on Nov. 6.
Name: Denice DiCarlo
Years lived in West Deptford: 15
Education: University of the State of New York, bachelor’s degree in accounting
Occupation: Vice president of finance and controller at PBS Kids Sprout
Family: Married to John with five children—John Jr., Alyson, Ryan, Anthony, Dylan
Previous elected positions: Appointed to a one-year unexpired term on West Deptford Township Committee; served three years on West Deptford’s school board
What’s the top issue facing West Deptford right now?
The debt—the debt has to be brought down and paid, but it certainly can’t be on the backs of the taxpayers. We just settled a 24-year-old tax appeal and that’s going to be paid back over the next 30 years. If there is some couple that just moved into town, we’ve already saddled them with prior years’ issues. The only way I see out of this mess is through economic development.
What is your plan for economic development?
We have to continue on with the plans started at RiverWinds. There were some buyers out there before the economy went south. We should be knocking on their doors.
I’ve expressed my concerns about the current appointed redevelopment counsel (Mark Cimino). He has no experience; he’s never done it before. One of the things we have to do next year is find an experienced redevelopment counsel, someone who works with the county Department of Economic Development and makes sure we understand who is trying to get into South Jersey and what can we do to get them into our town.
And how can we incentivize them? Is it a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement? I don’t think there should be any deferral of taxes 100 percent—everyone should take some sort of risk—but I think we need to make sure we understand who wants to come to South Jersey and how we can convince them that West Deptford is the place for them.
What do you want RiverWinds to look like five or 10 years down the road?
I think RiverWinds is our center of town and anything we can do to bring more people and more business to the center of town is great.
It would be nice to finish the marina. People who like boats want a place to go. Second, there was a previous developer that had an entire plan that the township (committee) before us had already approved, and was going to basically come onto the waterfront and build right there.
If you look RiverWinds restaurant, all of that land to the right is supposed to be developed. There is over $10 million just in the sale of land alone over there, let alone what you can get in tax revenue.
I also think it would be nice to have an additional playground there. It would be nice to have another place for younger kids to play, especially because everyone is already there for games and practices and concerts.
What about Eagle Point? What do you want to see there?
It’d be great if it became a refinery again, but I’ve been assured they’re downsizing from that business. What I’d really like to see is it come back in some capacity where there is manufacturing being done and there are more jobs in West Deptford.
Please talk more about the debt issue. What can be done to avoid West Deptford ever getting in this situation again?
I don’t know that you can make sure that West Deptford never gets into this position again. I know there’s been a lot of mudslinging against the prior Democrats that sat on the committee, but I think the state really drug their feet as well.
Personally, I think there are two things the state should do. Number one, there were a lot of questions when we were trying to refinance the debt whether the state would let us go out for 30 years. That was crazy—it was a 24-year-old tax appeal, how can they expect for us to pay it back right away? There needs to be more laws around that.
At the very least, the state should cover the school board’s portion of the taxes. … Being a prior school board member and knowing how well-managed that budget is and knowing how many programs had to be cut, I don’t want this misconstrued that I think the schools should have to pick up from that. The state needs to get us some reprise there. For the next 30 years on this tax appeal, you’re going to be paying back a portion of that school board tax that should never have been paid out. When it comes to that school board portion that was refunded, the state should help out with that. It’s a shame to make the taxpayers pay for something that wasn’t their fault.
What is working and isn’t working about the way township committee operates now?
What’s working is you have a lot of people working really hard. But you have a lot of people who aren’t working together, and that’s a shame. From a leadership perspective and what I tell my team, my job is to make the sum of all of you better than you are by yourself. That’s the mark of a true leader. If we don’t have great leadership at the helm saying, ‘Together we’re better,’ it doesn’t work.
So much of this campaign seems marked by why voters shouldn’t elect the opponent. Leaving Jeff Hansen out of it, why should voters elect you?
Based upon my credentials, I’m a confident watchdog. If anyone is questioning people of the past or whether they want to make sure there’s balance, I’m a confident watchdog. I have stood up there by myself and really gone toe-to-toe with these guys and asked challenging questions. I will continue to challenge our professionals. It’s our job and it’s what I do every day. I’m somebody that looks out for the taxpayers and makes sure that the professionals are doing their job and we’re looking out for the town.
We’ll end on an easy one—what’s the thing you like best about West Deptford?
The sense of community. I always tell the story about how when I met my husband—he’s been the president of West Deptford soccer for many, many years—he invited me to help out with the annual Thanksgiving Day tournament. I was utterly amazed how many volunteers came out. I met some friends that I still call dear friends today. There are genuine people who take such pride in the township, and that’s why I love it.