Education

Summit Council OKs $365,000 to Fund City’s Share of Dispatch Center Capital Costs; Mayor Says Time Not Right for Full-Day Kindergarten

February 6, 2013 at 7:07 AM

SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Common Council on Tuesday approved a $365,000 bond ordinance to fund the city’s share of the capital costs of constructing an emergency dispatch center in New Providence that currently is planned to serve the city and the borough.

New Providence will provide an equal share of the capital costs for the facility, which will be constructed by renovating the former New Providence First Aid Squad headquarters in the borough’s municipal complex.

Dave Bomgaars, who chairs the Summit council’s finance committee, said Tuesday that the ordinance provides for an $18,000 down payment with the remainder of Summit’s share to be paid by bonding.

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He estimated that the new facility would be in operation early next year.

Councilman Thomas Getzendanner said the two originating partners in the joint meeting operating the dispatch center should not carry the full weight of funding if other communities decide to join in operation of the center.

Communities that join later, Bomgaars replied, would either be allowed to “buy in” as partners to the joint meeting or become “customers—just as the City of Elizabeth is in the Joint Meeting of Union and Essex County which operates the area sewage processing facilities.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Patrick Hurley said the board of the joint meeting would determine the status of late-joiners on a case-by-case basis.

“We don’t want to discourage other municipalities from joining,” he added.

On another topic that has loomed large in Summit over the last few months, Mayor Ellen Dickson said that, with the many pressures on the city’s school system, she did not believe the time was right for full-day kindergarten.

The board of education has endorsed the full-day concept, contending that it is necessary to bridge the achievement gap for minority students and to give Summit students a leg up on continued academic excellence in the future.

It has estimated the cost of construction and annual operation of the full-day program at $11 million.

The final decision on the project will be made by the Summit Board of School Estimate, which includes Dickson, Bomgaars, Councilman Robert Rubino, Board of Education President George Lucaci and Edgar Mokuvos, who chairs the board operations committee.

The mayor said the school estimate board is scheduled to meet twice next month, but full-day kindergarten thus far is not on the agenda for either meeting.

Dickson added that more than 1,000 students have been added to the Summit schools in the last 10 years, the school district is employing many new teachers, overcrowding at the Franklin Elementary School has resulted in the use of temporary classroom trailers and many improvements are needed in the physical plant of the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School.

She noted the fourth round of state RODs grants may not come to pass to fund the 40 percent of the costs of the project cited by the school board, the school district only has received about 50 percent reimbursement from RODs grants already applied for and Summit taxpayers possibly will be facing a county tax rate increase in the double digits.

In light of this, she added, “I don’t think it is fair at this time to think about adding full-day kindergarten. The time may be right for it in the future, but not now.”

The mayor also said that a bill in the state legislature mandating full-day kindergarten statewide is “stalled and likely to go nowhere” at this time.

On the matter of county government, a call by Getzendanner for councilmen to attend freeholder meetings this month to make their voices heard on county spending drew a reply from Hurley that more needed to be done such as urging local legislators to push for a restructuring or elimination of county government.

Council President Richard Madden, noting that council members in Summit serve voluntarily, said the freeholders decided not to increase their salaries this year.

He added governing bodies in many Union County municipalities that are losing money are paid, and condemned the “nepotism” in many areas of county government and the fact that several county officials hold at least two government positions.

Madden said he welcomed suggestions from Summit residents on how the county can cut its costs.

On another matter, former Mayor Janet Whitman and Lyle Brehm made a presentation to the governing body on “Discover Summit Arts,” a festival celebrating the Hilltop City’s wide variety of arts venues and talents, scheduled for June 23 through 29.

The first day will feature the Fine Arts and Crafts Fair, and there will be art exhibitions and lectures, the Minuetto Music Festival, artwork by local artists, live are demonstrations, dance, public art walks, demonstrations of creative art therapies and healing arts, photography and local theater performances and international films.

The city’s restaurants and shops should be participating and top celebrity chefs from throughout New Jersey are expected to demonstrate their culinary craft.

In other official business, the council adopted ordinances adjusting about 50 fees associated with various city recreational programs and restricting parking on Sunset Drive in the area of the Summit Tennis Club.

The governing body also introduced an ordinance to prohibit turns from Orchard Street and Springfield Avenue onto Briant Parkway between 8 and 10 am and 5 and 7 pm.

Residents in the area sought the restrictions because they said many drivers use Briant Parkway as a way to avoid the traffic light on Orchard Street and Morris Avenue.

Police Chief Robert Weck estimated 21,000 cars per week travel through the area.

Although agreeing with the plan, Madden, a resident of Morris Avenue, asked Weck to investigate a left-turn lane from Morris Avenue onto Orchard Street heading into downtown Summit.

He said there is a problem with traffic backing up near Orchard Street waiting to make the turn.

Editor's Note:  Union County Freeholders are paid $29,500 per year.  The Chair of the Freeholder Board is paid $31,500 and the Vice Chair earns $30,500.

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