Newton Town Council Discusses Timber Salvage of Trees Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Dave Simmons, town engineer, discusses the property. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller

NEWTON, NJ - The meeting for the Town of Newton took place as scheduled on Monday night, although meetings in other municipalities were cancelled due to the inclement weather from earlier in the day. The Town of Newton meeting, however, adjourned at 7:36 p.m., with council staying longer for an executive session.

The topic of timber salvage was the main subject of discussion during the night, which was led by Dave Simmons, the town's engineer, from Harold E. Pellow & Associates.

"We're talking about harvesting storm-damaged timber," said Simmons.

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Following Superstorm Sandy, Simmons said the town's forester evaluated the area by the town's water treatment plant, which is located in Sparta adjacent to Morris Lake, and found there are miscellaneous spots surrounding the water treatment plant where trees had been damaged.

One spot of focus may require the creation of a right-of-way through a resident's property, with permission from the resident required to gain access.

This spot primarily has deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter), which would be a more urgent reason to remove the matter.

"In the area he [the forester] saw downed matting, and there with deciduous trees, it would probably be there for decades," said Simmons.

When members of the council inquired what the town may reap from harvesting the timber, Simmons approximated about a $5,000 revenue.

Deputy mayor Joe Ricciardo was one of the ones uncertain if potential damages to the resident's property by traversing through it, compounded with legal fees to draw up paperwork for the transaction, would be worth it.

"The potential for damage is there," said Ricciardo. "I don't know if it's worth it in legal fees."

Ricciardo, along with other members of the council proposed if the easement became permanent, it would be worthwhile to them.

Town of Newton Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr., and the town attorney, Ursula Leo, will speak with the property owners to negotiate the possibility of a permanent easement. According to Simmons, the forester made contact with one of the property owners. The owners are a mother and daughter, and he spoke to the daughter, who indicated she wanted to discuss the proposal of the town using their property as an access, with her mother.

In other business:

Russo said the town saved $50,000 over the last two years, on electricity costs. Effective Dec. 1, 2013, the town's electric rates dropped from 8.9 cents to 7.98 cents, in the online energy auction.

Russo said the town council will participate in the tentatively scheduled joint council and school board presentation to honor the Newton High School Boys' Soccer Team, for their state championship win, on Feb. 20.

A citizen recently approached the town about permanently naming the section informally known as "Art Alley." Russo said he thought the idea was interesting, and needed Leo to  draft up paperwork to make the change. Russo suggested local artists and students can become involved, by painting murals and graphics in the alley. "We are marketing ourselves as the arts and heritage portion of the county," Russo said, with the town becoming known as an "arts, dining, and entertainment destination."

Gary Posey, Captain of the Newton First Aid Squad, thanked the mayor and town council for their efforts in establishing a LOSAP (Length of Service Awards Program), for members of the squad. The town introduced the ordinance at the meeting to offer the program. LOSAP was created in 1998 through the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, to provide tax-deferred income benefits active volunteers of an agency, such as a first aid squad or fire department. 


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