MONROE – Peter LoPresti respects the township governing body. “I applaud them because it’s public service.”
That respect, however, is not stopping him from running for one of the two township council seats on the November general election ballot.
“I just see a different vision,” the Republican council candidate said in a recent interview about why he is seeking public office. “I’ve been in town for 30 years and I’ve been employed by government for 27 years … I just see so much senseless waste and spending.”
Part of the problem, as seen through LoPresti’s eyes, is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to professional services, particularly the engineer and township attorney.
“For instance [our] in-house engineering [our] in-house attorneys, we paid phenomenal, phenomenal amounts [of money] to outside services,” LoPresti said. “I work for the town of Old Bridge. We have [an] in-house engineering department that saves us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
LoPresti is a captain with the Old Bridge Police Department in charge of the detective bureau. He does not have an issue with the work performed, saying “they do a great job.”
The GOP council candidate did not have an exact figure about how much the township spends using professional services, but his running mate, mayoral candidate Charles Dipierro, estimated it exceeds $500,000 for each service. Dipierro is a current councilman.
“Just to put out several bids in the town, the charges are extraordinary and there’s just so much waste,” LoPresti said.
Taking advantage of Route 33’s potential
“We’re lucky to have the last non-developed highway probably in most of the [area],” he said. “We have the next Route 18, Route 1, which is Route 33 and instead of building our tax base with sensible commercial buildings, we’re putting in condos. What does that do for our schools?”
Local development is a central part of the Republican campaign, whether it’s questioning past decisions or trying to find methods to attract more commercial and retail.
Route 33 already supports zoning for businesses, he said, but instead, the local government looks to build more homes in that area.
“We’ve got to look at what we have, we got to utilize the resources that we have and I just don’t think we are doing a good job with it,” he said.
To help spur more commercial and retail growth, LoPresti supports offering shorter-length tax or available financial incentives to businesses.
For example, he thought the township should have been more aggressive with the Amazon headquarters sweepstakes that had communities across the country submitting proposals.
“I believe Monroe did very minimal to even try to attract [Amazon], but we have plenty of land on the southern border that can handle it,” he said as an example about attracting more commerce. “We miss the opportunities that can save all our taxpayers a lot of money. And you could, again, use incentives to lure in your commercial businesses.”
‘The opportunities are there’
Based on Monroe’s square miles and population, LoPresti believes the government can capitalize on opportunities to improve the quality of life. The community is also known for having a desirable school system, access to major transportation networks, shopping and a solid recreation program and services for seniors.
His theory is based partly on the development he’s seen in Old Bridge and other municipalities neighboring Monroe.
“For instance, along Texas Road, we did the Woodhaven development. We’re bringing in all these homes, we’re doing economy housing and the condos and everything other towns are doing, and we’re closing schools,” he said. “Monroe, right on [Old Bridge’s] border [has] no commercial ratables and we’re overcrowded in schools.”
He also offered Millstone as an example. He said the town has a “decent tax rate but doesn’t have the services Monroe has,” though its master plan is “a little bit better.”
“The schools are doing fine, the schools are not overcrowded and they’re developing,” he said. “We’re putting in major homes in Old Bridge, South Brunswick, plenty of homes, plenty of ratables. The schools are all fine. In Monroe, we’ve got kids in trailers. How does everyone else do it?”
“So, I’m just saying the opportunities are there [for Monroe],” he said.
LoPresti said he doesn’t have the specific answers to why Monroe lacks a better balance between residential and retail but pivots back to using available land for the best purposes.
“If we continue on the housing front people are not going to come to Monroe because of the school system. They don’t want their kids in trailers,” he said, adding that he believes Monroe has a “great” public school system that attracts families to the community. “But, are you going to move to a town where your kids go to a trailer because there are not enough schools?”
Ultimately, for the business owner and public servant, LoPresti recalls advice from years ago that he said relates to municipal government.
“You watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves,” he said. “It’s worked for me for 40 years in business. And I think once you get into government, and again there’s a lot of good people in public service, [they] sometimes lack the business sense with the spending.”
Editor’s note: Monroe Victory 2019, which includes the mayor and two incumbent Democratic council members, did not provide any dates for a similar one-on-one interview after multiple requests between Sept. 16 and Sept. 26.