BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Rotary Club recently invited Mayor Angie Devanney and members of the Township Council to their bi-monthly luncheon at Chimney Rock Inn in Gillette.
The Mayor and Council got a lesson in Rotary rituals while the Rotarians were updated on the state of Berkeley Heights. Council members Gentiana Braimaj, Manny Couto, Jeanne Kingsley, and Alvaro Medeiros were in attendance.
The meeting began with the passing of the "Happy Dollar Jar." All in attendance donate dollar(s) that are given to Rotary International in support of their fight to eradicate polio. For every dollar donated, the Gates Foundation donates two dollars. "[Polio] has been eradicated across the world except for three countries," said Rotary President Jim Ramentol of GRA Architects. "It is very close to being eradicated -- however, until polio is 100 percent eradicated -- it's not done."
After the normal business portion of the meeting, Ramentol introduced the council members present and gave Mayor Angie Devanney the floor.
Mayor Devanney thanked the group for their service and what they do for the community. She recognized the many groups that volunteer their time for community service -- "people caring, whether it's the business community or parents, coaches -- we really have an outstanding community."
She said she believes government should come to people. -- "It's hard for people to come out to the Tuesday night council meetings -- we try and do a good job with social media and our website -- one of my goals is to get out to various community groups and bring government to you guys." She also credits the award winning Communications Committee for opening up government communications that includes their “Happening in the Heights” weekly video with Business Administrator, Liza Viana, and Communication Chair, Pam Yoss.
The $32 million municipal complex project was the first topic discussed -- "which really has been a Herculean task. I have to commend the former administrations and governing bodies. This is a difficult project," said Mayor Devanney. She said there were delays in the project due to the discovery of nearly $1 million in unsuitable soil. The project is due to open July 2020.
Other topics discussed:
- Ensuring that the six planned redevelopment projects imposed upon the Township by court-mandated housing needs would remain on track, since their revenue is necessary to pay for our capital needs and commitments - including the municipal complex debt. [Many are just breaking ground.]
- The Locust and Snyder Avenue street light has been ordered and is expected to be installed late spring.
- Dispatch is included in shared services, a $100,000 annual personnel cost savings. "It will also avail us to latest technology," said Mayor Devanney.
- Dealing with a recycling crisis.
"As one as my first initiatives of 2019, I launched the Mayor’s Recycling Taskforce in response to the recycling crisis that increased the Township’s line item by 142 percent and the cost continues to skyrocket as we are witnessing bids of 200 percent. My Taskforce members, in conjunction with the County’s recycling coordinator as part of our shared service agreement, have worked tirelessly to investigate options. Their hard work narrowed our possibilities to one-arm bandit containers, local shared services with Westfield and Cranford, and looking to outside counties to form a co-op," she said.
Various township committees have been also been created including the Senior Advisory Board, Grants Committee, Commuter Task Force and the Economic Development Committee.
"I am proud to personally serve on our new Economic Development Committee that is working to implement a Property Tax Reward program called SHOP BH! That will reduce our resident’s property taxes while encourage residents to shop locally. To further help our business community, I am also collaborating with the Connell Company to finds new ways to connect their 4,000 employees to local businesses and services through this SHOP BH! program and technology for their new residential project," said Devanney.
The Mayor and council took questions from the Rotarians.
The Berkeley Heights Rotary Club is a group of local business owners and professionals, who come together to give back to the community and are members of Rotary International, the world's oldest service organization. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities, Medic Alert Program offered to senior citizens living in Berkeley Heights and they continue to work towards a polio-free world.