NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Councilman Robert Robinson touted the importance of personal relationships with Union County representatives at the Monday, April 9 council meeting.
Union County Freeholders Angel Estrada and Bette Jane Kowalski attended the Street Smart campaign kick-off event prior to the meeting providing the council members with the opportunity to chat face-to-face with the two freeholders. Robinson noted that the county has new management and that borough officials should reach out to them and meet them in person. New Providence has had a strong and positive relationship with county management for years, he said. He suggested that the borough organize a meeting with the new county manager in order to foster the strong connection.
In January the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders appointed Edward Oatman as Union County Manager. His predecessor Alfred Faella retired as of March 1, 2018.
Robinson had brainstormed a list of topics that the borough could discuss with county officials. One of the top items is the continuation of grants that the borough has received annually. “We want to maximize the potential of getting grants for New Providence,” he said.
He noted also that the county taxes have gone up in recent years, and they now surpass the borough taxes in the total tax bill. The county does not have a cap for tax increases while municipalities are limited to a two percent annual tax increase. The county taxes have increased 6-8 percent every year, he said. He suggested that the borough bring up the topic of county taxes at the meeting. Councilman Michael Gennaro noted that the county tax burden on each municipality fluctuates depending on assessed property value changes.
Robinson pointed out that many freeholders are from more urban areas of Union County. He emphasized the importance of the representation of the western parts of the county, including New Providence, Summit and Berkeley Heights. “We want to make sure that we are represented fairly when they look at Union County as a whole,” he stated.
Borough Administrator Doug Marvin talked about leaf collection on county roads. He explained that the county conducts a pick up twice during the fall season. Meanwhile the borough picks up leaves every other week. He pondered if there is a possibility for the borough to collect leaves on county roads and receive a refund from the county. He noted that the borough pays by the square yard for dumping leaves at the county depot. He wondered if the borough could come to an agreement with the county and perhaps have the dumping fees waived. Similarly, the borough could possibly work something out with the county regarding snow removal on county roads.
Furthermore, Robinson pointed out that Union County is one of the two counties in New Jersey that have separate Sheriff and Police Departments. He pondered if gradually joining the two establishments could save the county some money.
Robinson suggested that the borough arrange to meet with county officials regularly, at least bi-annually. He said that the borough representatives could consist of different council members and employees depending on the discussion topics.