BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Tuesday night’s Township Council meeting was a busy and non-contentious one. It was preceded by an executive session in which there were three items discussed which involve “attorney-client privilege.” Those items were: Contract Negotiations on the Municipal Complex with Mast Construction; the Recreation Commission, Personnel; and the Sherman Avenue right of way.
During the conference session, Bill Swisher of Suplee, Clooney & Company presented the annual audit report, which received an “unmodified opinion,” which he called “the best you can do … it was the same as last year.”
He said there were a few small items including a comment on recreation fees from last year that the council should pass an ordinance and set minimum and maximum fees. Passing such an ordinance would allow the Recreation Commission to adjust fees as members deem appropriate.
The state has a recommended $1 million surety bond for a CFO, and the township’s bonding is “a little bit lower than recommended,” he said. Also, the township should clear up three municipal liens which have been in force for two years. “See if you can get money or foreclose on them,” he said, because the township is funding all the taxes due to the county and school district,” he said. It’s time to “call the liens,” he said.
Financially, the township is in good shape, he said. It began 2019 with $1.8 million in surplus and ended the year with a $2.4 million in surplus.
During the meeting, two proclamations were read, — one for eight children, members of Val’s Valiants, who each received a Certificate of Commendation from the US Environmental Protection Agency, for their outstanding achievement in environmental protection service. The children Sambhav Chaturvedi, Vibhav Chaturvedi, Joseph D’Aquila, Vincent D’Aquila, Valerie Diamond, Evan Harris, Katie Nicolick, and Tyler Reed, who range in age from preschool to high school-age, participated in nine litter cleanups with the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission during 2018. The clean-ups were held in different locations and everyone in the community was invited to join in the effort.
The second proclamation declared September Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
The text of each of the proclamations can be found here.
The council approved three ordinances after holding public hearings for each. Only one of the ordinances elicited a minor question from the residents on the Zoom call.
The three ordinances which were adopted following the public hearing were one approving the redevelopment of former Kings Site; another amending Title 12 of The Code of the Township of Berkeley Heights to include a new section related to “fishing” in which fishing at Horseshoe Pond is limited to “catch and release,”; and the ordinance authorizing the township’s acquisition of an easement owned by Chemtrade Solutions LLC. The texts of the ordinance can be found here.
Councilwoman Gentiana Brahimaj reported she attended a meeting of the Youth Council meeting. The council will meet every two weeks.
Councilman Manuel Couto reminded residents to respond to the census, “If you haven’t answered it, do it now.” The township is doing well in its response, but it is “still not at 100 percent,” he said. It can be done online.
Couto also announced there will be free flu shots for most township residents from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, at Mt. Carmel, 56 River Road. Bring your insurance card and no appointments are necessary.
Both Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley and Council President Alvaro Medeiros urged residents to get the flu shots.
Council Vice President Susan Poage announced there is an opening on the Grants Committee and urged residents to apply. Go to the website to find the application.
She was part of a group of volunteers who took down more than 200 photos from the former Council Chambers. The photos were sorted by decades, she said.
Councilman Stephen Yellin said the photos, which are now safely stored, will go up in the new building. The Historical Preservation Committee will have a table at the PBA #144 Fishing Derby which will be held at Horseshoe Pond later this month. The plan is to have some historic artifacts from Littel Lord displayed to help increase awareness of the need to raise money for the restoration of the house. The slogan “A Little for Littel,” will go a long way to make residents aware of the need to raise funds to help restore “the historic treasure that goes back more than two and-a-half centuries in the town,” he said. Read more about the Littel-Lord Farmstead here.
Mayor Angie Devanney mentioned that the Senior Advisory Board Committee met a number of times over the summer. The committee is working towards organizing two outdoor events, one involving exercise and one involving bingo.
The mayor said every week she makes brief calls seniors who live in the township and have not been able to get out since March. During the calls she brings them up to date on what is happening in town. Anyone who wants to be on the list should contact the mayor’s office at Town Hall.
She and Township Administrator Liza Viana each thanked everyone involved in getting the traffic light put up on Locust Avenue.
Viana reminded everyone, “Do not block the box, the Rescue Squad is right there.”
Contrary to expectations, “COVID did not slow anything down in this town,” she said. The construction office has “never been so busy,” she said, and urged residents to go to the building department website and there residents will be able to download forms, read the construction code regulations & adopted codes, schedule inspections, check status of permit applications and more. The response from the department will be much quicker, she said. Residents should go to the SDL Portal, here,
The mayor reminded everyone “the offices are still closed,” and will continue to be closed to the public. “We are not going to retrofit the old building for COVID,” she said.
Viana said, “There is no point to putting money into this building when it is going to be torn down – very soon, very soon.”
The council introduced four ordinances:
1. one amending the minimum and maximum rate of salary and compensation of elected and appointed township officials and non-union employees in the various municipal departments of the township.
2. An ordinance adding a new section to the Board of Recreation Commissioners, “Associate Recreation Director.”
3, An ordinance appropriating $39,120.44 from the reserve for equipment to purchase firefighter gear.
4. A bond ordinance amending and restating in its entirety Bond Ordinance #8-2019, which was adopted on Aug. 20, 2019, to increase the amount of the appropriation and the authorization, to re remove certain purposes and to include additional purposes.”Bond ordinance providing for the acquisition of equipment for the sewer system in and by the Township of Berkeley Heights in the county of Union, NJ, appropriating $2,2414,500 therefor and authorizing the issuance of $2,414,500 bonds or notes of the township to finance part of the cost thereof.”
There is no down payment required, as the cost of the improvement is being funded by the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank.
The public hearing and final adoption of each of these ordinances is scheduled for Sept. 22, 2020. The complete text of the ordinances described above can be found on pages 102-117 of the agenda, here.