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Eleventh-Hour Negotiations the Key in Finalizing Eagle Point Deals

A series of phone calls with Sunoco officials ended any question of whether the settlements would pass on a final vote.

Twenty-four years’ worth of battles over the value of the ended with a single phone call Thursday evening.

An hour and a half before the West Deptford township committee meeting was scheduled to begin, Committeewoman Denice DiCarlo got the call she had been waiting for:

Sunoco officials were making some late concessions to the township, agreeing to an $800,000 cut from their property tax refund.

It was the movement she’d wanted, and, along with a $200,000 concession from El Paso, the refinery’s former owners, was enough to shift DiCarlo from a no vote to a yes, in what became a unanimous vote to seal the deal by to pay off the two companies and end the longstanding property tax disputes.

“It was an absolute waiting game,” DiCarlo said. “Each side had to give a little bit.”

That call brought an end to six months’ worth of discussions on the settlements, and came after a whirlwind two weeks of bipartisan negotiations, spearheaded by Mayor Ray Chintall and DiCarlo, as the township committee worked to reduce what had been a total of $32.4 million in settlement agreements with the two oil companies.

“We were always constantly talking,” Chintall said. “We never stopped.”

It reached a height over the past two days, as both sides traded Fourth of July fireworks for the back-and-forth of negotiations.

And much of the talks took place directly between the township committee and Sunoco officials, rather than through both parties’ attorneys, which both Chintall and DiCarlo said was important in pushing the late negotiations.

“I’d rather talk to the people,” Chintall said.

The finalized settlement agreements touched off a ripple effect—as part of the agreement, Sunoco agreed to waive the 5 percent interest it would’ve been due on the tax overpayments, saving thousands of dollars, and $1.5 million budgeted by the township for tax appeals should be cut drastically.

“I know we can cut at least $1 million,” township administrator Eric Campo said of the tax appeals line item, which translates to 4¢ per $100 of assessed value.

That would take the projected tax rate increase in down to 4.5¢ per $100 of assessed value. The 20-year bonds to pay out the settlements will add to the budget down the line, but not this year, according to a plan laid out by Committeeman Sam Cianfarini.

The deals also come with another cost—instead of a $100 million assessment agreed to earlier, Sunoco is getting a $98.5 million assessment on the property, which will translate into a slightly lower tax bill than the $2.55 million originally guaranteed by the settlement, which locks in the value of Eagle Point through the end of 2013.

The decision to give the final sign-off on the settlement was met with general applause from a capacity crowd at the municipal building, though there were still some partisan sentiments in the wake of the vote—Democrats voiced their approval for DiCarlo’s work on the deal, while Republicans heaped praise on Chintall and Cianfarini.

Ernest Kraus singled out Cianfarini for credit, praising the committeeman for “lighting the fire to get this done.”

Given the option of going to a courtroom fight over the disputes, Kraus noted decisions elsewhere seem to favor industry over local governments almost universally.

“Every township that has gone into court…has lost, and lost big time,” he said.

But Joe Holovachuk, treasurer for the West Deptford Democratic Party, applauded DiCarlo for standing her ground against the oil companies until they agreed to concessions.

“We saved $1 million,” Holovachuk said.

Others raised concerns over the unknowns associated with the appeals, which could’ve added $90 million in debt in a doomsday scenario that both sides had said was unlikely, but possible.

“I carry two credit cards…and that’s about all the debt I can handle,” Terry Baker said. “I’d really like us to rid ourselves of this—to solve this problem and move on.”

There were a handful of detractors, though. At least one resident questioned why the committee would take 24 years’ worth of disputes and compress a decision into six months.

“I don’t understand the urgency,” Don Suchora said. “We could’ve done a better job.”

With the settlements done, the township committee members said they have hope Sunoco will reinvest in the property, which is seeing .

But with the oil company signing a deal with the Carlyle Group to keep its Philadelphia refinery open, and also working with Marcus Hook, PA, officials on the next life for its former Marcus Hook refinery, DiCarlo said there’s reason to think Eagle Point can continue to be a valuable asset.

“There is a future here,” she said.

J. Smith July 06, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Dicarlo saved West Deptford taxpayers $1 million dollars. Imagine how more could have been saved if she had been at the negotiating table from the beginning. Thanks Committeewoman DiCarlo. Keep up the fight for good government!
Occupant July 06, 2012 at 10:57 AM
The Democrats have been at the table for the last 20+ years and look at what it cost us. Now you harp she saved us a million? big whoop. You knew those two had to vote yes just to preserve their political careers.
Bill Bondar July 06, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I'm surprised the Patch didn't report on the policemen who got promotions... Congratulations to all.
Ken July 06, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I agree, DiCarlo should be the finance chair anyway. Of course there will be nay sayers, but really a million dollars in 2 weeks just imagine what could have been done in 6 months given the chance. Oh Occupant why blame 24 yrs on DiCarlo she's only been there 6 months also. Someday maybe everyone will know what really happened in the 48 hours leading up to this settlement. Bipartisan my a$$.
Bryan Littel (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 01:24 PM
That's coming, Bill.
WDNeedsHelp July 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Chintall and Cianfarini brought a 90 million court case loss down to a 33 million dollar settlement that Szymborski and Dicarlo voted against and the Dems praise Dicarlo for a measly million. This was more grandstanding by Dicarlo, nothing more. Last time I checked 57 million is just a bit more than a paultry 1 million. Please, you Dems embarrass your selves.
WDNeedsHelp July 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Agree, I would hate to think were we would be if the Docimo, Daws, Garrison and Cobb crew were still in power. Scary !
Jeff Jones July 06, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Congratulations to our newly elected (and appointed) officials for finally closing the books on this issue that has plagued our township for too long. We will never know if a better settlement could have been reached with more time, or if a court ruling would have been in our favor (my personal guess is probably not...). What we do know is that this deal's impact on our taxes is manageable and all the uncertainty has been lifted. As a small sidenote, we are witnessing the value of a bipartisan committee. Republicans agree to a deal, Democrats hold out for a while, and then oil companies agree to more concessions to get both side's approvals. This would not have happened with a stricly partisan committee of either party. The back and forth is very heated I'm sure and deals are difficult, but in the end the residents benefit. Let's move on from this, beginning with getting to the bottom of the $5mm that may or may not be missing from the Riverwinds financing.
oscar farley July 06, 2012 at 03:55 PM
just want to say the next meeting which will be next week go to the meeting and ask dicarlo what was offered to the township that she turned down instead of taking that offer it may be disclosed at the work session meeting. why would the oil companies agree with just a mere million.when the township could have gained 3 times that much. dicarlo it will come out and you won't look like the grandstander that you are
Samantha McCall July 06, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Mr. Smith, maybe Mr. DiCarlo, wow, she was fantastic! She walks on water and saves the township, give me a break. It appears that she might, the way that Brian wrote this piece.
ThomasJefferson July 06, 2012 at 06:19 PM
She wouldn't have had the ability to agree or turn down anything without whole committee approval, Cianfrani is finance chair.
redneckwillie3 July 06, 2012 at 10:04 PM
in reality if it was a 3-2 democratic majority it would still be going on. so kudos to all and don't give all the cresit to denise she would have voted yes no matter what the amount was it was her political desire if she wants to have any chance on staying on the committee but to vote yes. one thing bryan your article sound as if dicarlo saved us from the holocaust of the big oil refinery.the true alcolades have to go to the residents that voted Sam & Ray into office that made it a republican majority and to have started the process of ending this fiasco withe sunoco & el paso. now move forward and continue cleaning up the garbage left behind the previous administration. noticed angelini last night did he want his old job back
Sam Sebastiani July 09, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Thank you Denise DiCarlo for saving us another million dollars and not jsut rolling over to Big Oil like Sam and the republicans usually do.
WDNeedsHelp July 09, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Please see the above comment, C&C's deal saved 57 million and Dicarlo and Gerry White's deal saved 1 million and I suspect that in her rush to put her name on the "win" of the Republicans she may have blown the chance of a bigger "give back" by our largest taxpayer later down the road. The Dems seem to forget Sunoco is a neighbor in West Deptford and if you piss them off too many times it will come back to bite you. Be proud of your "win" Denice, but lets all hope it doesn't end up being a bigger "loss" later for the WD residents. Oh and by the way, can you please ask Gerry "Mcguire" White "WHERE IS DA MONEY!" as I would really like to know where my 4.5 million went.
SamNeedsALife July 09, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Great job Denise. Keep up the good work! Good things can happen when you dont cave to the pressure of big oil.
wdbs July 09, 2012 at 08:42 PM
she was gonna vote yes regardless of the situation go to the meeting this week and find out what she turned down for the paltry million.and then you can say great job denise people will be shocked

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