BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 3 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Republican Township Council Candidate Jeanne Kingsley for Week 2.

Week 2 Question:

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Please prioritize the top three infrastructure issues in the township. What timeline and estimated price tag would you attach to each project? How would you recommend the township pay for each project?

First, completing the Municipal Complex project in its entirety should be a primary focus.  Although the building will be opening shortly there is still more to do:  demolition of the old property, paving and parking, landscaping, signage, and creating a rolling maintenance plan to ensure its proper upkeep. This complex will be the epicenter of our town with a senior center, a recreation center, a modern library, a state-of-the-art police headquarters as well as easily accessible administrative offices. We are on the 10-yard line with this critical project and it is important that we ensure it is the shining gem of our town and a wonderful place for all residents to gather. In addition, we have five other development projects in town (Kings, Movie Theater, Florist, Locust Avenue and Millcreek) that we need to keep an eagle eye on as the revenue from these projects will offset the costs of building the Complex and are critical in continuing our downtown beautification efforts.

Secondly, the quality of our roads is a constant issue.  New potholes seem to pop up after every rain or snowstorm.  Effective planning for road repaving and maintenance is critical.  It’s important that we maximize any and all state and county grant dollars.  Several years ago, I worked with our DPW Director to implement a dynamic 15-year road repaving plan.  This plan rated every road in town--over 52 miles in all--and this data is the basis for the repair plan.  With the emphasis on keeping our long term borrowing constant, the plan is based on spending $750,000 annually on road repaving projects.  These dollars are then supplemented with grant dollars.  

Getting the maximum life out of our roads is critical to keeping capital costs down.  And of course, a key component of ensuring longevity for our roads—as well as our properties-- is effective storm water management.  My husband and I have invested thousands of dollars in French drains and sump pumps to help manage drainage issues around our house. In 2018, I made sure that the township capital budget included funds to begin to identify the issue – to understand how much of the issue is above ground versus below ground.  Just a few weeks ago the township was presented with the findings of the initial drainage study performed on the West side of Berkeley Heights and unfortunately the issues are underground and extensive.  The proposal to remedy will take several years to implement and will cost at least $15 million.  And that is only looking at one section of our town! Accordingly, it is imperative that we complete a comprehensive study of drainage issues throughout all of Berkeley Heights.  As a strategic planner, I try to evaluate our issues not just in the context of what is happening today, but also through a future-facing lens. Before we commit a large sum of taxpayer dollars, it is critical to do our due diligence, including obtaining additional opinions and estimates from qualified professionals.

Lastly, I think all of us can agree that we are now experiencing widespread power outages in Berkeley Heights far too often throughout the year. Like many of you, my husband and I felt we had no choice but to invest in a costly generator to protect our property. Clearly, we need to hold our power companies accountable. But there are also things within our control that need to be addressed by us to mitigate power outages--such as our shade canopy. Trees growing too close to power lines are the culprit in many outages. I have had many discussions with JCP&L on this issue and the reality is, we share the responsibility. So, I believe the best path forward is to work closely with them as good partners. That means creating a comprehensive plan for smart tree trimming in late fall or early spring, including identifying exactly who is responsible for trimming what (both operationally and financially), and disincentivizing tree planting under power lines.