As your new Mayor, I am excited to be working with all residents to write the next chapter of our town’s history. That new chapter began on January 1, where I was ceremonially sworn in as Mayor by a large group of Berkeley Heights girls who had volunteered to help elect me. As the first woman to be elected Mayor by the voters, it was an historic moment that I was proud to be part of!
My first six weeks have been very busy, and I am pleased to report that progress has already been made on several fronts. Township officials who bring excellent experience and capabilities were appointed, including our new Township Administrator, Liza Viana. I made many appointments to Township committees following an unprecedentedly open and transparent application process. They are of different political views and supported different candidates for office, and all are highly capable and qualified. First and foremost was their commitment to making Berkeley Heights a better place to live. In other words, they fulfill the “purple” vision of our Township that I was elected to bring about.
In my Inaugural Address, I spoke of the need to manage our tax dollars better. To that end, the Township has adopted contracts for services under a new, professional standard known as a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), which also conforms to the state standard of Fair and Open contracts. This measure will help keep costs down while making the process much more transparent. Other, equally responsible measures have and will be implemented in the weeks and months ahead. We are launching an e-waste recycling program, providing more services for your tax dollars, allowing residents to drop off their off unwanted electronics at our Department of Public Works on the first Saturday of every month from 9 AM – 12 PM. In addition, residents will soon be able to bring certain unwanted Styrofoam to Town Hall to recycle.
I also announced the creation of a Recycling Taskforce, which will explore options to bring down costs of our increased recycling budget. With new restrictive regulation recycling changes, China is no longer accepting certain materials and wants others to be cleaner. The result is a 142.9 % increase in the Township’s recycling budget. Additionally, working with Council, I would like to create an Economic Development committee designed to bolster our local business. We hope the committee will explore and launch “SHOP BH,” a property tax discount program that discounts your taxes when shopping at a local participating business. Also, the committee will work to ensure the connectivity of the Connell Park development, creating a concierge that showcases downtown businesses.
Our Department of Public Works has been off to a running start this year, with our hard-working employees proactively addressing many much-needed projects under our cost-saving Shared Service interim director, including:
- Filling over 300 potholes since January 1
- Proactively brining and salting all of our roads during each and every snow event
- Swiftly responding to a downed tree at a school
- Starting a list of future storm sewer projects
- Completing all sign repairs
- Cleaning brooks and sewer drains to help facilitate drainage
- Repairing several sewer basins
- Abating all existing fire code violations
Meanwhile, our township engineer and DPW director have been assessing some of the worst parts of town as it relates to drainage, visiting residents’ homes to get first-hand accounts of the flooding issues. To that end, we will soon be launching a drainage study to determine the most effective course of action to address and remediate the antiquated infrastructure that is largely contributing to the frequent flooding in some areas. Working with our waste water treatment plant director, we will assess how quickly we can get started. Our waste water treatment plant is implementing a new SCADA system; this will result in vast energy efficiency at the plans, and also allows for more precise and accurate controls of all equipment.
In addition, I, along with our Township Administrator, have been meeting with the many developers in town, ensuring they have what they need to forge ahead on their development projects while still being in compliance with Affordable Housing mandates and our redevelopment plan, so the Township can start realizing some of that revenue to offset the cost of our new municipal complex. We are extremely excited to report that the 55+ community, which will be built at 100 Locust Avenue, is well on its way toward receiving the required permits; this developer will be installing the much-needed traffic light at the intersection of Snyder and Locust. We will ensure this traffic light gets installed as expeditiously as possible.
As Mayor, I have had the pleasure of attending many special events since taking office. I attended the reorganization meetings of our all-volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, and administered the oath of office to the Rescue Squad leaders. I also administered the oath of office to the new members of the Planning Board, and attended two meetings of the Library Board. Finally, I enjoyed officiating several weddings in as many weeks.
I look forward to providing regular updates through the newly created Tapinto Mayor’s Corner, as well as continuing to meet with and listen to residents like you across our community. Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.