SUMMIT, NJ - Coinciding with the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday, the Summit Common Council meeting on January 15 began with Council President David Naidu – himself celebrating a birthday – beginning his President’s Message with a quote attributed to King. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Naidu went on to cite King’s activism for affordable housing and desegregation, which influenced the Federal 1968 Fair Housing Act, which in turn led to the 1975 New Jersey state supreme court ruling that a town – specifically, Mount Laurel – could not zone in ways that exclude affordable housing.
Remarking that affordable housing was a trending topic in Summit these days, Naidu made several points. One, affordable housing is distributed throughout the town, as both City-owned and privately built properties. Two, over time, housing stock becomes limited so “affordable housing is needed to create socio-economic diversity.” Admitting that the issue is a complex one, Naidu concluded that “if we focus our eyes on what is necessary, that is to create a more inclusive community... we can be on the path, as Dr. King would have said, to a ‘more beloved community.’”
Fire Department Chief Eric Evers introduced two fire inspection code changes now in effect. When a regularly scheduled inspection of a fire suppression or detection system in a commercial building is completed, the inspector now must now send the report to the City's Fire Department within five days.
Stand-alone smoke detectors run by 9-volt batteries must be replaced with ten-year sealed battery detectors. This applies to all commercial properties; residences may keep their battery-operated detectors until the house is sold, at which time the sealed-battery model will be required to obtain a certificate of occupancy.
Evers also discussed his department’s recent Insurance Service Office (ISO) audit. ISO is an independent company that rates fire departments on a 1 (best) to 10 (worst) scale; this information is used by insurance companies when determining premiums. A better ISO score equates to lower fire losses. Rankings are based on a compound score comprising Emergency Communications (10%), Fire Department (personnel and equipment) (50%), and Water Supply (40%); community interaction and other variables are also factored in. When the department received a score of 3 in 2017, it launched a number of improvement efforts, resulting in this year’s score of 2. The Class 2 rating is earned by fewer than two percent of fire departments nationwide; Summit is one of only one of 22 Class 2 municipalities in New Jersey. Evers suggested that residents notify their insurance carriers about the new score, proof of which will be posted on the City website.
Evers also acknowledged Fire Department Lieutenant Brian Harnios’s completion of the intensive training program run through the National Fire Academy in Maryland. The six-week program is spread out over 18 months. The Chief he took the opportunity to promote the upcoming Summit-New Providence Rotary Club blood drive, which is set for Monday, January 21, from 1- 6 p.m., at Christ Church in Summit.
There was a short agenda of resolutions reflecting the revised list of council committees approved in 2018. Ward 2 Council Member Marjorie Fox moved five Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first authorizes the city engineer to execute 2019 NJDEP, NJDOT, State of New Jersey, and Union County permit applications on behalf of the City, using what Fox called “sound engineering judgment” and providing notification to the appropriate council committees when such action is taken. This eliminates the need for routine applications to be discussed and voted on by Council.
A second resolution requests that Union County replace and upgrade the 27-year-old traffic signal at the intersection of Broad and Walnut Streets. While it is in working order, it is located near the site of the proposed new fire station, and is unable to be retrofitted with upgrades like a signal control box and detection cameras. It would be funded by the County and maintained by the City.
The third resolution authorizes an agreement with Union County for a rectangular rapid-flashing pedestrian signal at Elm Street and Morris Avenue. Although it would be installed at the City’s expense, it requires County approval because Morris Avenue is a County road. Once permission in obtained, the exact location would be decided; since the location is near the Summit middle school, it is possible that one would be located at each of the two crosswalks there.
The fourth resolution accepts a $3,850 donation from the Summit Parkline Foundation to purchase six park benches to be placed in the Phase I section of the Parkline between Morris Avenue and Board Street. Permission has already been obtained from Atlantic Health System (AHS) to place two benches on the section owned by AHS.
The fifth resolution declares three vacancies in the Division of Public Works. Fox characterized these positions as critical, especially with the anticipated need for snow removal.
A Finance resolution moved by Council Member at Large Beth Little extends paid sick leave for a DPW employee.
Stephen Bowman, Ward 2 council member, moved a Law & Labor resolution appointing Annemarie Cahill as a Rent Commission member. She is a real estate agent and a landlord. The committee is now fully staffed.
A resolution was introduced from the floor by Ward 2 Council Member Greg Vartan, declaring a vacancy for a police officer in the wake of a long-term officer’s retirement. Vartan explained that the urgency to fill the position made it undesirable to wait until such a resolution could be put on a formal agenda.
All resolutions passed.
In her Mayor’s Report, Nora Radest announced tht Union County has entered into a shared services agreement with Essex County to house young detainees in Essex’s Juvenile Detention Center, beginning March 1. Closing the Union County facility will save the county a projected $24 million over the next three years.
City Administrator Michael Rogers reminded residents that the Union County deer management program – with a “shotgun component” – is in effect in Watching Reservoir and other parks until March 31, so walkers should stay on the trails and keep dogs on leashes.