How did the summer fly by so fast? Although Fall is by far my favorite season, this Fall is obviously a bit different for all of us – with school, sports, government and life. Despite the challenges 2020 has brought us, there are also some great things happening here in Berkeley Heights to keep progress moving, despite COVID19.
Outdoor Dining Ordinance to be Extended
We are working with our restaurants to extend outdoor seating through the winter. There are certain winter-related requirements that they must adhere to, including where heating sources can be placed, how canopies must be able to handle a certain “snow load” (weight) etc… But we are committed to ensuring our restaurants can continue to safely serve customers outside, as well as limited indoor service, through the winter months as desired. The Township Council will consider this ordinance at first reading next Tuesday, October 6, and will vote on adoption at its October 27 meeting. More information for businesses coming soon. We will distribute the information through our email list of local restaurants, the Economic Development Committee, TAPinto and the “Reopening Berkeley Heights” page of our website.
Update on planned road projects:
- Commuter parking lot at train station: Preconstruction meeting week of October 5; schedule forthcoming
- Drainage and paving project in the area of Plainfield (north side of Springfield Ave), Lincoln and Washington streets: Preconstruction meeting week of October 5; schedule forthcoming
- Engineering of the paving job on Cottage Street happening now
- Still awaiting state DOT approval for the paving of Ferndale, Fay, Hastings, Greenbriar; resolution accepting the bid on that project planned for the October 27 Council meeting.
- Fairfax Drive & surrounding areas, paving, drainage and sidewalks: May apply for 0% to low-interest financing from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (NJIB) for this project, so the Township saves money on interest on money borrowed to complete this project. The NJIB will consider this application in January.
‘West Side’ Drainage Project
The Township Council on September 22 meeting received an update on the “West Side drainage study” commissioned by the Town, to focus on the areas of Orchard, Mercier, Deepdale, etc. down across Mountain Ave. to Sawmill Drive. The project, which will entail constructing a water conveyance system that can more adequately handle water associated with a “25-year storm,” could take at least $15 million and three years to complete. But it’s a project this administration is committed to and must be done. Our antiquated drainage system has not been improved upon since the town was built, and as the town has been built up, the system simply cannot keep up.
We have been working with our Township Engineer to get approval for this project from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (NJIB), which provides 0% to low-interest financing for drainage-related infrastructure projects; there are significant costs and time associated with just preparing the construction documents, applying for necessary permits, and obtaining easements from residents’ properties that may be affected. Ideally, we would like to break off Old Farm paving into a separate project; Old Farm Road drains into a different body of water than the other roads involved in this study, yet it desperately needs to be paved. We are exploring the possibility of grading and paving this road before being able to address the rest of the study area, as long as we can minimize the amount of new work that may get torn up when we reconstruct the broader study area in question. Regardless, Mayor Devanney has committed to moving this project forward, and we are already seeking funds to start the paperwork process.
The Township has been reimbursed over $70,000 in CARES Act money for COVID-related expenses we have already incurred. Our CFO has been collecting information from all departments on what future expenses we may incur in trying to keep our residents and employees safe while conducting business with the Township, receiving government services, and participating in recreational programs; we recently submitted our requests for Round 2 of funding approvals. Some items we requested to be covered include:
- outdoor tents to continue recreational programs further into the year (particularly for our most vulnerable senior citizens)
- tents for outdoor emergency response training
- plexiglass barriers for our new building for the walk-up windows to protect residents and our employees
- signage for our new municipal complex and parks encouraging social distancing and other hygiene protocols
- portable washing stations for our outdoor youth camps
- an equipment decontamination wash station for our volunteer Rescue Squad
- and more
Twitter & Instagram
Residents can now follow Berkeley Heights Township’s official Twitter account, @BHnjGov, to get important Township news. Launched about two weeks ago, the creation of this account continues the work that the administration and Berkeley Heights Communications Committee have been doing to expand the township’s digital properties, ensuring all residents, no matter what platform they are on, are able to access important updates.
In addition, Mayor Angie Devanney has also launched a new Instagram account, @mayorangiedevanney. There she posts daily COVID BH numbers, as well as information and photos about all of the great events and people who make up this community. The Township Instagram account is @BerkeleyHeightsGov; follow us everywhere!
Our offices continue to get many calls from residents wondering how voting is working this year. This year is a Vote-By-Mail (VBM) ONLY ELECTION. There will be no machine voting. Voters who wait until Election Day will be given paper ballots (called provisional ballots) which will be counted AFTER the Vote by Mail ballots. The Board of Elections has placed a secure voting box at Snyder Avenue Park across from the playground and spray park up against the bathrooms. The box is emptied daily and has its own security camera. You can safely drop your ballot there or put it in the mail. Our Clerk’s Office has more information on our website here.
No Knock List
Anyone who owns or rents property in Berkeley Heights can now sign up to be included on the Township’s new “No Knock” list. Signup is available on the clerk’s office page on the Township website. There is no charge for registering your residence. Charitable, religious, political, or other nonprofit groups or individuals, including schools, civic organizations and service clubs may continue to spread information, advocate for a cause, solicit signatures in support of a cause, solicit donations or charitable contributions or conduct sales of personal property for a charitable purpose.
Municipal Complex, Scanning & Expanding Online Capabilities
Walking over to the construction site to talk to our project managers and survey the progress is a 1- to 3-times daily exercise now. Epic (the redeveloper) is contractually obligated to substantially complete the building by October 23, and we are doing everything we can to help reach that date. The elevator was delayed because of COVID, so we’re hoping that doesn’t adversely affect our timeline too much. Then there was the issue of that mangled car that was dug up from the area being paved as a new parking lot on the South side of the building. No, Jimmy Hoffa was not found in the car (nor was anyone else), but it delayed operations a bit while the remains were dug up, soil tests were conducted, etc. We think the chassis was missing from the vehicle; the mystery remains as to who car it was and how it got buried. Find all municipal complex updates, including weekly videos, here.
While we are overseeing this municipal complex project and making daily decisions to help get it done, our employees have undertaken a massive scanning project to begin to get rid of the decades-old boxes of paper that have been sitting in our basement at Town Hall. Meanwhile, we continue the process of putting more resident services online, particularly when it comes to permit applications and other interaction our residents may otherwise have with our Building Department. Click here for more on our permit process. Click here to see what you can do online more efficiently when it comes to getting needed approvals for home improvements or changes.