Berkeley Heights Township Council Rejects County-Backed Solar Energy Plan; Councilman Proposes More Budget Reductions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Township Council on Tuesday night voted against a Union County Improvement Authority plan aimed at funding solar energy projects on public buildings.  The Council cited several issues that contributed to the Council's decision:  1)  the potential township liability for financing of the project; 2)  a shortage of information about the project; and 3) that there was only a single proposed project for Berkeley Heights in the plan.

Under the improvement authority's Renewable Energy Initiative Program the authority will apply to the Local Finance Board for $45 million in bonding to finance installation of solar heating and cooling panels. The panels will be installed on a number of buildings around the county. Although the installing companies will fund the projects, the county agency will act as a "co-signer" of the initial funding and the communities involved could benefit from any energy savings.

Township Council President Joseph G. Bruno said the company for which he works has taken advantage of a similar program for private industry and has found it beneficial.

"There would be no cost to the township, no liability and potential savings," he added. "I cannot see why we would not vote for it."

Both Councilmen Kevin Hall and John C. Bonacci, however, said there was not enough information available on the program. Councilman Hall said he was unsure whether or not Berkeley Heights would face some financial "contingent liability" for the funding.

Councilman Bonacci, however, supported the measure when he was assured there would be no cost to the township.

Councilwoman Elaine K. Perna, who joined with Councilman Hall and Councilman Gerald Nelson in voting against the measure, also was skeptical about whether the township would ultimately be responsible for some of the cost of the bonding.

She also did not see why communities such as Linden and Hillside were chosen for projects on a number of public buildings while only the Berkeley Heights Municipal Building was chosen.

Township Administrator Jack Conway replied Union County engineers had evaluated all potential project sites. He added the improvement authority would apply to the Local Finance Board for projects whether or not communities endorsed the program.

Residents Carol and Richard Matula warned, however, that county funding could come with "strings attached" and even federal and state incentive programs used to obtain some of the funding would ultimately have to come partially from township taxpayers.

Mr. Matula added some European countries have found solar energy has not produced greater cost savings than conventional forms of energy such as oil, gas and nuclear.

On another matter, Councilman Bonacci proposed $33,000 in reductions in a number of salary and wage and other expense accounts in the 2010 municipal budget. These reductions, along with using $75,000 from surplus, would bring the increase in municipal taxes from 9.1% down to 7.9%, the councilman said.

Councilwoman Perna estimated this would mean the average township homeowner would see a tax increase for municipal purposes of about $135 this year. Without the reductions the increase would be $152, she said.

Both Mayor Robert Woodruff and Councilman Hall, however, said they did not like the idea of further decreasing the salaries of employees who already had agreed to salary freezes for the past two years and were picking up a greater share of their healthcare costs.

Other Councilmembers did not agree with Councilman Bonacci that the township could sufficiently recover from the decreased amounts in municipal surplus in time for next year's budget, as predicted by Councilman Bonacci.

Councilman Bruno, however, thanked Councilman Bonacci for moving the governing body further along on budget cuts before the budget adoption date of August 10.

Mayor Woodruff said other governing body members should contact Councilman Bonacci with their ideas for further reductions.

One resident did, however, have some news that could help the situation. He said he had been tracking year-to-date police payroll costs and, if current trends continue, the police salary and wage accounts could come in $60,000 to $81,000 lower for the year than originally projected.

Councilwoman Perna said part of this savings could come from police agreements to defer overtime into next year in exchange for compensatory time off, which could save about $68,000.

In another item concerning the police department, Mayor Woodruff said the Berkeley Heights and New Providence police chiefs and business administrators had been studying the feasibility of merging the departments in the two communities. The Union County Prosecutors Office, he said, suggested the studies for a number of similar communities located near each other.

The mayor was quick to note, however, that the studies were only preliminary and much work still had to be done before any plans were made.

A change in the zoning ordinance to allow for buildings in the downtown business districts to be a maximum height of 36 feet with two and a half stories drew a negative vote from Councilman Bonacci.

He wants to limit heights to 28 feet and two stories.

Councilman Hall noted, however, that if the governing body does not adopt the zoning change, as proposed in the 2007 Master Plan, the Planning Board would be forced to live with the current ordinance that allows building heights up to 46 feet.

Councilman Bonacci responded the council should try to completely improve the current ordinance to meet limits that he said are supported by a majority of township residents.

On another planning matter, the Council heard a presentation by the Westfield Gospel Hall of the Plymouth Brethren, which plans to build a new worship center on property at Sherman and Berkeley Avenues.

The group has received approval for its plan from the township Planning Board, but would have to apply for a variance to allow it to extend its parking lot six feet into the Berkeley Avenue right-of-way. If the council approves of the extension, however, further Planning Board action will not be needed.

At the urging of Councilwoman Perna the township attorney will work with the church group on a provision to make the right-of-way extension contingent on its reversion to the township if needed for future widening of the roadway.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Honoring Sacrifice and Service on Memorial Day

May 25, 2018

On Monday, May 28, 2018, our Nation celebrates our most solemn event, Memorial Day.  In Berkeley Heights tradition, we will honor those who sacrificed themselves so that we may continue to live in the greatest country on earth.  I invite all residents to join us for the parade festivities and, most importantly, gather at our Veteran’s Park for a brief ceremony.

America has ...

Logic and Sensible Spending Take Priority

Logic.  It's what people use when endeavoring to complete things in the most sensible order.  Everyone knows that "logic" means sequencing events in a formulaic, predictable manner.  We learned this at a young age, as we observed Star Trek on TV and came to understand why Captain James T. Kirk relied on Spock as his first officer because his strategic plans were ...

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

Union County College President Received Prestigious Award from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

May 26, 2018

CRANFORD – Union County College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin was one of 35 college presidents from throughout the nation to receive a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during PTK Catalyst 2018, the Society’s annual convention, in Kansas City, Missouri, held from April 19-21.

The award honors college presidents who have demonstrated ...

A Better Summer with the Y: Join by May 31 and Have Your Joiner Fee Waiver!

From now through the end of May, new members joining the Berkeley Heights YMCA will have their joiners fee waived, because at the Y we believe that everyone deserves to reach their health and wellness goals. With a savings of up to $95, you can focus on the perks of being a Berkeley Heights YMCA member:

Unlimited attendance to more than 100 group fitness classes a week
• State of ...

The New Providence 2018 Memorial Day Parade Begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 28

The Borough of New Providence and American Legion Post #433 invite all to attend this year’s Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28, 2018.   The parade will begin at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine, at Springfield and Central avenues. Post 433 and the New Providence Community Activities Department have co-sponsored the town’s Memorial Day Parade for more than 65 years. The parade, ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Cycling Champ Laura Van Gilder Returns to Somerville Memorial Day to Defend Race Title

May 26, 2018

 

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Laura Van Gilder, 54-year-old cycling champion from Cresco, Pa., will return to defend her title at the 75th annual Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, attempting an unprecedented fifth win in the 25-mile women's race, just one of several races that begin at 10:30 a.m..

The Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville, often referred to as the Kentucky Derby of ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Thu, May 31, 1:30 PM

Coppola Ristorante, New Providence

Lunch and Learn: Dental Implants and the ...

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_69a5db118db45d8f5de0_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Carousel_image_c9562615f730fddb6122_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_9eff927f48bc74910214_committee

Fri, June 1, 6:00 PM

Senior Center of the Chathams, , Chatham Township

Senior Center of the Chathams Glorious Garden ...

Food & Drink Home & Garden

The Evaluation of the College Search

It’s is a bizarre time of year as a college counselor as I find myself at both the beginning and end of this process.  Sophomores and juniors are excitedly and idealistically starting to consider what will be important to them in a school.  At the same time, while only separated by a year or two, my seniors have all committed within the past month to a school and have spent the ...

How to Design Your Ideal Retirement

Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream?

In past generations, retirement planning didn’t involve very much. You stopped work ...

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...