BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Many of the officials, professionals and volunteers who will be guiding and making the decisions of how Bernards Township will be run during 2015 were named to their positions on Friday night, at the first Bernards Township Committee meeting of the year.
This year's Bernards Township mayor is John Malay, who was deputy mayor in 2014, and served as mayor for two other terms. Township Committeewoman Carol Bianchi was selected to be deputy mayor in 2015.
Under the form of local government in Bernards Township, the Township Committee selects two of its five members to serve as mayor and deputy mayor for the following year.
The appointments were made unanimously by the all-Republican Township Committee. Appointments to professional positions and volunteers on various boards and commissions were listed on the meeting agenda, but not read at the meeting, which was also attended by numerous county, state and federal government representatives.
Two members of the Township Committee who were re-elected in November, Thomas Russo, Jr. and John Carpenter - who had served as Bernards Township mayor in 2014 - were sworn into new three-year committee terms, with their familes by their sides.
Carpenter has been a Township Committeeman since 2006, while Russo was just appointed last fall to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of former Township Committeewoman Mary Pavlini.
New mayor says maintaining financial stability will allow township to 'weather storms'
In his opening remarks as mayor, Malay said he would continue to stress the Township Committee's priorities of "financial stability and quality of life for our residents...in 2015 it is our intent to continue that policy."
Malay told the full audience that controlling local government spending results in stable municipal taxes - "Our record in this is the best in the state" - but also is important for reasons beyond immediate impact on the tax rate.
"As the last few years have shown, you never know when calamity will hit you," he said, summoning up memories of Hurricane Sandy, which cost the township hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup and response costs, as well as "the slow erosion and corrosion caused by the costly mandates dreamed up by the majority party in Trenton."
Some of Malay's comments on the need for fiscal stability were captured in a video on the TAP into Basking Ridge Facebook page.
Discussing quality of life, Malay also mentioned a Green Team initiative that has kept township parks pesticide-free for six years. Bernards Township's environmental efforts have led to silver certification from the statewide Sustainable Jersey program, Malay said in remarks on another TAP Facebook video.
Malay also thanked the volunteers who serve on township boards and serve as local emergency responders, as well as municipal employees - a theme echoed by Russo and outgoing mayor Carpenter.
Carpenter said 2014 had been a year of "quiet accomplishment."
He said the township had met its primary objective of "providing essential services at a reasonable cost and in a fiscally responsible manner."
Among the year's accomplishments, Carpenter said, the township settled a longstanding lawsuit with the Millington Quarry; managed to cut in about a fifth the amount of cost to taxpayers to settle the state pension board's complaints regarding a separation agreement with former Police Chief Dennis Mott about six years ago; and, with state Assemblyman Jon Bramnick's (R-District 21) intervention, received a promised state grant of $250,000 to install a generator capable of powering all of the historic building that serves as the municipal town hall at 1 Collyer Lane.
State award for road materials recycling program
Carpenter noted that the harsh winter of 2014 "took quite a toll on our roads." However, the township engineering's department use of a technology to recycle road materials stretched the township's budget for road repairs, and also received two awards at the recent League of Municipalities convention.
In their speeches, the township officials also mentioned a plan to install two synthetic turf fields at Mountain Park during 2015, with funds provided by the remaining amount in the municipal open space fund, and also the sale of smaller pieces of township land that will be annexed to county open space holdings.
At the end of his comments, Russo invited township residents and business owners to "never hesitate to contact me via office or cell phone, email, or in person. I pride myself on listening more than talking, treating taxpayers as customers, and on being a resource in local government for those who might otherwise have nowhere to turn." A portion of his comments is on video.