Summer is officially here, and many of us are celebrating the completion of our children’s first virtual semester - and somehow surviving homeschooling while working from home and quarantining (serenity, now!). As our economy opens up, and we get out to eat, visit beaches and parks, and play sports, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of wearing masks in public, maintaining safe social distancing, and frequent hand washing/sanitizing. 

We are seeing many states/localities take huge steps back when they open up too fast, without taking enough precautions. Let’s not let that happen here in BH! If everyone does their part, as they patronize their favorite restaurants, florist shops, pharmacies, nail salons, and more, we can continue to open up for business - safely! Parents, PLEASE urge your children to practice safe COVID protocols as they get back into sports or engage in other gatherings.  

Opening BH Back Open for Business

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The new Township Restaurant Review Committee, established by Council this month to enable our restaurants to have outdoor seating to comply with the state’s COVID-19 reopening protocols, has reviewed and permitted almost 10 local restaurants for outdoor seating. We have also been helping other non-essential retail businesses and pools safely open. Our Township staff - particularly our police, fire and OEM reps - have been working around the clock, as needed, to get restaurants their approvals. We understand how important it is to get them open! 

Given that indoor seating has been postponed indefinitely, we may see more applications for outdoor seating permits. Meanwhile, please be sure to order takeout from all of your local restaurants, go get a pedicure or hair cut (men, that means YOU!), get a massage, order flowers, and otherwise patronize your favorite local businesses.

Please check our “BH Reopening” page here for updates. 

Budget Passes, 0% Municipal Tax Increase

The Township Council passed the 2020 Budget at its June 23, 2020 meeting by a vote of 6-0; there is a zero percent municipal tax increase for Berkeley Heights residents. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor and Council, along with department heads, the CFO and administration, scrubbed the budget and analyzed every line item to come up with more savings. We wanted to provide our residents with a budget that maintained the level of services you are accustomed to without a tax increase at a time some may be financially impacted by the pandemic.  The Budget Presentation is available online here.

Top Ratings From Moody’s
Moody’s Investors Service has assigned a MIG 1 rating to the Township - the highest rating given by Moody’s, using their rating system to gauge the risk of municipal bonds and the creditworthiness of the issuer. This provides us with more opportunities for financing in the municipal bond market. In addition, Moody’s also affirmed the Township’s Aa1 GOULT rating - investors look at this rating for their risk of the investment. This is great news for the Township, particularly during a global health pandemic that has risked the financial futures of many other towns throughout the United States. 

Note Sale to Help Pay Off Debt

Like any homeowner with a mortgage, looking for the lowest mortgage rates, municipalities look for the lowest interest rates to finance their capital debt in the short and long term. To that end, the Township exercised the benefit of historically low interest rates with two municipal note sales on June 23. The Township competitively priced $24,043,000 of Tax-Exempt Bond Anticipation Notes, Series 2020A and $10,500,000 of Tax-Exempt Bond Anticipation Notes, Series 2020B. 

We received extremely desirable rates: net interest of 0.382% on the $24M, with actual rate of 2% with a premium of $389,015.74; and net interest of 0.446% on the $10.5M, with actual interest of 0.50% with a premium of $3,780.00.

The premiums from both notes will go directly to servicing of the debt related to the muni complex. These great rates were due, in part, to the positive rating we received from Moody’s.

Municipal Complex

The Municipal Complex page of our website is updated regularly; please be sure to visit it here. We’re now doing quicki, 1-minute (or so) video highlights of progress made each week. Be sure to look for those videos in TAPinto Berkeley Heights every weekend. Here is the update for the week ending June 26. 

We continue to work with the developer (EPIC), our project managers (Mast), architect (arcari & iovino) and other stakeholders to nail down a firm completion date. 

Please note that the commuter and visitor parking lot at Town Hall is now closed; the fenced-in area will soon be milled, and dirt from the municipal complex construction site will be moved here to dry out over the summer, then later used as backfill for the new building. This is saving the Township significant amounts of money. 

Grants

We as recently as this week submitted applications for the following grants:

NJ Department of Transportation, Municipal Aid: To mill and pave Sawmill Drive West, College Ave, and Riceman to finish off that section

NJ Department of Transportation, Safe Streets to Transit: To do Phase 1 of the work we submitted for and received a more than $400,000 award for Phase 1. Design surveyors have been in town for two weeks doing surveys on Plainfield Avenue for Phase 1 of the project. 

NJ Department of Community Affairs, LEAP Implementation Grant - State grant to cover costs of shared services; we applied for a grant to cover our equipment expenses associated with entering into a shared service with Union County for emergency dispatch services.  

NJ Historic Trust - The Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund provides grants for historic preservation; we applied for funds to help restore the Littel-Lord Farmstead, using previously awarded grant money as the Township’s matching portion.

Redevelopment Update

Hamilton Ave. (Toll Brothers) - The Township recently received a second payment of roughly $65,000 from Toll Brothers per their redevelopment agreement, that will go toward paying off the municipal complex debt. The Township Council also recently approved their Treatment Works Approval application to the DEP; the state process may take a few months to review. 

100 Locust Ave. (55+ community) and Berkeley Terrace (old Berkeley Theater) - Construction ongoing. 

Lone Pine (Mill Creek) - Working on redevelopment plan amendments. 

Stratton House (old King’s Property) - Developer will present revised plans at July 8 Council meeting.

Mondelli site (Elite Properties) - Park maintenance agreement and PILOT agreement to be voted on by Council. Developer hopes to have shovels in the ground by the end of the summer.

Old Berkeley Florist (Elite Properties) - Planning Board to soon hear redevelopment plan amendments. 

Road & Drainage Projects 

Paving and drainage has been completed in the Rutgers, Princeton and Hamilton areas, as well as Briarwood East/West and connecting roads. Additional road projects coming this summer:

  • Milling and paving Fairfax Drive, along with adding much-needed drainage, new elevations for curbing and sidewalk repairs. (2020 capital money)
  • Paving Cottage Street (2020 capital money)
  • Possibly doing some extra work around the Mountain Park area, depending on how much the bids come in for to do the work above
  • Roads around Lincoln and Plainfield, on the opposite side of Springfield Avenue from Peppertown Park (2020 Union County Infrastructure Grant money)

In addition, we will meet with our engineer and his hydraulics team next week to go through the data recently obtained during our months-long “West side drainage project,” up near Orchard, Old Farm, Mercier, etc… to discuss next steps. 

Electronics Recycling is BACK!

Our monthly electronics and #6 Styrofoam recycling program was suspended in March because of COVID, but it’s back! Beginning Saturday July 11, residents can drop off their unwanted electronics and #6 Styrofoam ONLY at the old Little Flower parking lot on Roosevelt Avenue, across from the Fire Department. This is a NEW location; the DPW parking lot is too crowded with the municipal complex construction ongoing. Please note that electronics recycling is typically the FIRST Saturday of every month, but because of the July 4th holiday, this month it will be the second Saturday of the month.

Questions, comments or concerns? Please feel free to email me directly at lviana@bhtwp.com

Please stay safe everyone! We are all in this COVID-19 era together; and we will pull through stronger because of it!