BERKEKLEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Members of the public are invited to a special, open meeting of the Communications Committee to learn the results of a town-wide survey at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 11, in Town Hall, 29 Park Ave., in the back room, unless there is a big crowd, in which case the meeting will be in the courtroom.

During the Tuesday, Dec. 5, meeting, Councilman Peter Bavoso said all the survey data has been received, information compiled and, “We are looking forward to seeing people.”

Residents are encouraged to come, he said. The survey was undertaken because of an “outcry from the community for better communications,” so the committee decided it was necessary “to get a sense of what the community wanted” and how they wanted to receive the information, – text, email, or something else, said Bavoso.  The idea was to collect information before developing a strategy on how to better communicate with residents.

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Now that the data is in and has been analyzed, “We are encouraging people to come out and have conversation about this … Hopefully we will have some good dialog and formulate some strategies on communication,” he said.

The raw data from the survey was actually released on Sunday, Dec. 4, on Facebook, by Edmund Tom Maciejewski, who received the raw data after filing an OPRA request in the fall. He included a link to the raw data on his post.

Council Vice President Jeanne Kingsley told residents the “Be Heard” initiative was launched in June with a survey at the Street Fair.  It was an entirely “manual” survey and, by July, the committee “decided to contract with Survey Monkey and put it online.”  The public was told via the Township Website, TAPinto.net and other sources that the new survey was available. 

Among the data collected was contact information for those who took part in the survey. After the OPRA request came in for the raw data, the committee decided to take down the survey, revised it again, so that no personal information would be included, and put it back up. On Nov. 1 the survey was closed, Kingsley said.

During November, people on the committee worked to analyze the data, “raw data gives you nothing,” and a December public meeting was scheduled and announced, she said. “It has always been the intent of the committee to share the information with the public,” she said. Despite the efforts to not release the names and other information of the respondents, the committee was required to release the data to Maciejewski, she said, “Legally, we had no choice.”

Bavoso called this a “Damned if you do, damned it you don’t” situation, in which if the committee had come up with plans on how to better communicate with residents, members would have been told, ‘”You didn’t ask … Do a survey,’” he said.  

“I don’t understand. What’s the point,” of asking for the raw data, he said. “What are you concerned with?  What is your point,” he asked, adding we’re “all in agreement things can be better.”  He apologized to everyone whose contact information was included in the initial survey and had to be released.

The next task is for the Communications Committee to “proceed to decide the best tactics” on how to communicate with residents, Bavoso concluded.