Edited: Feb. 20, 2019 at 7:45 p.m.
We heard your concerns loud and clear. The front line in making improvements to Berkeley Heights neighborhoods needed to start with what you see each and every day. Our roads, our storm debris response, snow plowing and park maintenance all contribute to basic services taxpayers expect in their neighborhoods.
The first action the current administration took was to enter into a shared services agreement with Union County to allow the Township and the County to share in a director and related services. This agreement is a true win for Berkeley Heights and immediately yielded an expansion of services to the residents while also providing budget savings.
Thank you to the many who have shared your personal experiences of problematic potholes being filled, dangerous icing conditions being addressed, leaves being removed in a timely manner before snowfall, and other improvements they have witnessed. This is proof that this agreement is working.
Some of the benefits of the Shared Services Agreement have already included:
- The County’s Recycling Bureau chief helped provide an e-waste container for electronic recycling and a Styrofoam recycling container - at no cost to the Township - allowing Berkeley Heights to use a previously allocated recycling grant for something new.
- The county Recycling Bureau chief is also serving as the Township Recycling Coordinator and will help to identify ways to increase recycling which will increase state aid back to the Township.
- The County GIS (Geographic Information Systems) bureau chief has reviewed the Township’s mapping and work order system to streamline tasks for the Public Works Department and mainstream their workload.
- Our DPW is gaining access to a web-based work management system that not only will allow for effective reporting of resident issues, but will allow the DPW director, foremen and Township Administrator to access progress reports so they can better communicate with residents about the status of projects that affect them. This platform also includes an inventory system that will allow our leaders at the DPW to better track parts and equipment.
- Our personnel have been able to take part in additional training offered to County employees, such as chainsaw training.
- Berkeley Heights also has access to additional, specialized equipment that may be cost prohibitive to own. Special bucket trucks can reach higher beyond the Township truck’s capabilities for tree trimming and other tasks.
- When necessary, the shared service agreement provides access for County employees to help assist in specialized projects like removing a section of Park Avenue for resurfacing.
All to provide more services to, you, the resident. And we’re just getting started!
And finally, the costs savings. In our current agreement, while the interim director is paid approximately $30,000 for the year, based on an average of 8 hours a week, the salary does not increase if – when – he works more hours. The Township previously paid $98,000 for a director. The County fully pays for the employee’s benefits and has not charged the Township a percentage of those costs. Furthermore, the Township saves $68,000 in salary plus another $35,000 - $50,000 in pension and health benefits. Plus, other benefits such as the use of the car, workman’s compensation and other employee compensation are not charged back to the Township. A true win for Berkeley Heights.
While this agreement must be renewed annually, it also allows our DPW personnel the opportunity to gain additional education and management experience, which will be an asset to the department. By having a qualified, experienced director with intimate knowledge of Berkeley Heights in a shared service arrangement, our staff can earn certification in areas like storm water management or even a Certified Public Works Manager certificate - the highest level of education in public works.
This department should represent the pride of Berkeley Heights. It is these employees who are on the front lines of the work our Township does. They are maintaining our fields, repairing our roads and catch basins, trimming our trees, working on our Township vehicles, plowing our roads, and taking care of other necessary work that needs to get done to keep the town running every day. It needs the right person at the helm who not only can get the job done, but who is respected by the employees, communicates well with residents, and is willing to go the extra mile for our Township. We will not settle for anything less.
Until then, this shared service gives us access to an unprecedently qualified, highly respected individual who is helping us put a structure into place at the DPW that will be effective, and one in which empowers department employees. We value our people; it’s time we showed them that.
We will continue to search for out-of-the-box ideas, with Council, to further streamline government and provide cost saving measures for the future. This is what we can achieve when we put Berkeley Heights first!