VINELAND — A special city government panel that will investigate the use of taxpayer funding for the Four Corners development project is undergoing more changes.
City Councilwoman Mayra Arroyo will replace Councilman Louis Cresci on the panel.
Cresci’s removal is prompted by his showing in the Nov. 6 general election. A tally of voting machine and mail-in ballots put Cresci in 15th place with 2,634 votes in the contest for five open council seats. Provisional ballots are still being counted, but it is unlikely that Cresci will pick up enough votes to make it on the Dec. 18 City Council runoff ballot. The ballot will contain the names of the top 10 vote-getters.
Arroyo joins Council President Peter Cocarro on the panel. Arroyo and Cocarro finished first and third, respectively, in the election. They will run in the runoff election.
The panel also originally included Mayor Robert Romano. He has since said he will not serve on the panel.
Cocarro said he does not anticipate naming a third member to the panel.
Council on Oct. 24 voted to hire the Essex County law firm of Ambrosio & Tomczak to investigate whether money appropriated for the Four Corners project was properly spent. The law firm will be paid $30,000.
The $40 million Four Corners project at East and Landis avenues was supposed to create a commercial gateway to the downtown business district. The only part of the project to be completed thus far involved the $10 million renovation of the Landis Theater Performing Arts Center. The work cost $10 million and was partially financed with about $4 million of Urban Enterprise Zone money. UEZ money comes from state sales-tax revenue.
Council in June awarded a $32,000 contract to the Burlington County firm of Holman & Frenia for a full audit of the Four Corners project. The auditors have since told council that they are getting no cooperation from developer Hans Lampart.
Lampart was named developer when Perry Barse was mayor. Barse and his council slate were swept out of office in 2008 by Romano and his slate.
In an email sent recently to The Press of Atlantic City, Lampart said he is a victim of a “political agenda” and a “personnel vendetta” by some council members.
Lampart states in the email that he has followed through on all city-approved parts of the Four Corners project. He also said he has, through his accountant, provided the city-hired auditors with detailed funding and construction documents.
“It is interesting that they have never asked me any questions whatsoever,” Lampart said of the auditors in his email. “I am not aware of any other contractor or developer that has ever been subjected to these ridiculous innuendos, comments and allegations by a public body.”
“It’s no wonder that little ever gets accomplished here in Vineland,” he writes.
Contact Thomas Barlas: