BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Although all members of the Berkeley Heights Township Council remain the same for 2013 as in 2012, there is one change to the council hierarchy this year. Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley was elected council vice president during the Jan. 1 reorganization meeting. Councilman Robert Woodruff nominated last year’s Vice-President, Councilman Craig Pastore, for the post, but he declined, nominating Kingsley instead. She was elected unanimously. Councilman Kevin Hall was again unanimously elected to another term as council president.
Pastore and Hall, both Republicans, were sworn in to new three-year terms.
Mayor Joseph Bruno gave a “state of the township” address. He noted “the adoption of the annual budget is first and foremost and this we have already started.” He mentioned the council must live within the two percent cap imposed by the governor. The goal is to have the budget adopted by April 1.
He reminded the council, “We do have a fully burdened pension payment in 2013. (The 2012 payment) was reduced by the state,”
In addition, Bruno said the administration has been successful in reducing some costs by competitively shopping for the best prices in energy and insurance. As a result, he said the township will save about $200,000 this year.
The new emergency services dispatch center will open sometime around Feb. 1. Bruno said the updated center will also give the township an opportunity to do a shared service with another town, but he was not specific about which municipality may be considered.
“We will pursue our joint plan with Little Flower Parish to do a land swap and secure an updated facility for town hall, police and library while also establishing a permanent home for Little Flower Parish,” Bruno said. “Our goal is to do this at a minimal or at no cost to the taxpayer by marketing our current town hall complex.”
Little Flower's pastor said in an early December homily that he would like to trade the land where the upper church sits for the township library, to get all of the church’s land located in the same area along Plainfield Avenue. It would also enable the township to develop a municipal complex in the area where the upper church sits now.
Also in 2013, the mayor said he intends “to pursue secession from Union County by way of a town referendum on this year’s November ballot. You, the citizen and taxpayer who foot the bill should have the right to make a decision on what county you want to contribute to and be a part of.”
He said council will petition members of the State Legislature to release the township through legislation “and at the same time petition Morris County to accept us. This is nothing more than a business decision based on a difference in spending philosophy and we believe we have the right to bring this decision to you, the residents,” the mayor said.
Jan. 27 marks the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Bruno said he would “like our township to make this a special year for those veterans. There are at least two special events planned already – the Memorial Day parade and Veteran’s Day. “We have discovered that Nov. 8 is the day we were incorporated as a township and we would like to wrap a celebration around the weekend. Starting with Berkeley Heights Day on Nov. 8 and ending with Veteran’s Day on Monday, Nov. 11. We would like to make this very special as our way of saying ‘Thank you’ for your service to these men and women who answered their country’s call in a difficult period.” He would also like to line Main St. with flags beginning on Memorial Day and ending with Veteran’s Day.
Last, but not least, on the list of the mayor’s objectives for 2013, is to continue to meet with businesses through the township’s affiliation with the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club “to insure that all of our present businesses and those contemplating opening in Berkeley Heights know that we are a ‘business friendly’ community with plenty of upside potential.” He said there are currently five empty storefronts and there “is interest in every one of them. In 2012 we had six new businesses opening here in town. One hundred percent occupancy is our goal.”
The mayor stressed the need to be respectful during council meetings. “We may disagree on some issues, and this is expected, but it is never ok to be disrespectful. This continues to be our pledge as elected members of this community.”
Most future council meetings will be held on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. as follows: Jan. 8 and 22, Feb. 5 and 19, March 5 and 19, April 9 and 23, May 7 and 21, June 11 and 25, July 9 and 23, Aug. 6 and 20, Sep. 10 and 24, Oct. 8 and 22, Dec. 3 and 17.
The two November meetings will be held on Mondays, Nov. 4 and 18.
Plus, there are three budget meetings scheduled: Tuesday, Jan. 29; Wednesday, Feb. 13; and Tuesday, Feb. 26.