As your sitting Councilman, I have continually looked for ways to improve services without raising taxes. Identifying and negotiating shared service arrangements with neighboring towns and counties is one way that we have been successful. Berkeley Heights needs to consider every proposal with discipline and rigor, with a clear view of what’s in the best interests of Berkeley Heights.
There are many long-standing shared service agreements in force. Berkeley Heights currently shares services with the Municipal Court in New Providence; Animal Control with Millburn; Board of Health services with Rahway; IT services with Madison; and Vehicle Maintenance with the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. The Salt Dome was under a continuing agreement between Berkeley Heights and Union County for years and that arrangement was reaffirmed when the new Salt Dome was built. Being the furthest point away from the county seat, we share storage space and costs for the salt, and a prorated share of construction costs. And our Volunteer Fire Department that participates in a shared service agreement with surrounding towns to ensure mutual aid when needed.
In 2019, Berkeley Heights entered into a shared service agreement with Union County to provide us with a part-time DPW Director. And there’s more shared services to explore.
If re-elected, I will work with the entire governing body—Councilwoman Kingsley, Councilwoman Poage, Councilman Medeiros, Councilman Yellin (and hopefully Gentiana Brahimaj) to create and document a process to follow whenever Berkeley Heights considers sharing a service. This process will ensure that the needs and interests of Berkeley Heights and its residents are put first.
- Identify potential processes or services that are candidates for sharing.
- Determine the risk, cost benefits, and efficiencies.
- Develop a ranking system to identify the impact and visibility to the resident.
- Develop a method to measure the level of service and satisfaction of residents.
- Understand and document the processes and work streams that will need to be addressed.
- Shop around to be sure we are getting the best value for our money.
- Work with neighboring towns to understand their successes and failures in shared services and define best practices.
- Communicate the impact to the residents, including both the cost benefit and service impact.
- Set up timelines to re-evaluate the agreements for effectiveness and monitor for continued cost savings.
I believe in full transparency to the residents. And I believe in learning from our mistakes. In our first Council meeting of this year, on January 1, 2019, I did not support the Shared Services Agreement with Union County for a part-time DPW Director. I believed then that Berkeley Heights needed a full time DPW Director. Our prior DPW Director was a hands-on working director and I felt that given our aging infrastructure, a full-time manager is a necessary resource for our Town. After negotiating with fellow Council members, and the County, we developed terms that I was willing to support on a trial basis and I agreed to give it a try. Given the results to date, this Shared Service Agreement warranted re-evaluation.
I think we need a full-time DPW Director who is dedicated to the needs and concerns of Berkeley Heights. I have spoken to many residents as I attend Township events and walk their neighborhoods, and they have expressed dissatisfaction with the overall maintenance and appearance of our Town.
I believe that each shared service agreement needs to be reviewed and evaluated on its merits. We need to make sure that we are always getting the most out of every agreement. I plan to address this issue during the rest of my term and with your support, into 2020 and beyond guided solely by what’s best for Berkeley Heights and our residents.
I know my running mate Gentiana Brahimaj will be able to assist us in delivering high quality services to our residents. Her experience preparing contracts for clients, working on multi-million dollar budgets, and her ability to connect with residents will be an asset to us on the Council. Gentiana has not waited to get to work. She has already spoken with town representatives from Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit to get their feedback and ideas.
We respectfully ask for your support on November 5th. Vote Column B for Manny and Gentiana who will put Berkeley Heights First.