SOMERSET, NJ - Some things changed, some things remained the same at the Franklin Township Council reorganization meeting Monday night.

Shanel Robinson’s seat on the council remains empty after the former deputy mayor joined the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders last week. Though the appointment of a new council person was on the agenda, Mayor Phillip Kramer said they are still going through the process of vetting candidates selected by the Democratic Committee. The Democratic Committee selects Robinson’s replacement because she held the seat as a Democrat.

Picking up where Robinson left off, Councilman James Vassanella was elected to serve as deputy mayor after being recommended by Councilwoman Kimberly Francois. Louis Rainone was also reappointed by the council as township attorney.

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“We as a town have accomplished much in the last few years,” Vassanella said. “However, there is much more work to be done, as there always is.”

Some of the goals the deputy mayor wants to focus on in 2019 include addressing deer overpopulation, having a minimal or zero municipal tax increase, positioning residents as the primary beneficiaries of economic development, streamline processes where residents interact with government -- like paying water and sewage bills -- and starting construction on the Franklin Township Community Youth Center.

The council also approved on first reading an ordinance that would, according to Kramer, half the size of applications to the planning board and zoning board. The ordinance will come up for a final vote at the Jan. 22 meeting.

The township also approved contracting external engineering services for 2019 after the longtime in-house engineer retired. Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said that during the previous six months the staff was “very satisfied, beyond our expectations” with CME Associates’ work and was happy to make the recommendation to the council.

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