SUMMIT, NJ - Again meeting virtually, the City of Summit Common Council -- at its second meeting in March -- introduced three ordinances, each of which will be heard at the Council's next gathering on April 6. While all the ordinances will be heard, certain landscaping apparatus -- in the near future -- may not be, as one of the ordinances, if passed, would ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the City for three months.
Beth Little, Council Member at-large, introduced two Capital Projects & Community Services ordinances. The first would amend City noise prohibitions to create a pilot program banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within the City from June 1 to August 31, 2021. Little explained the issue has garnered much public interest, with more complaints about the equipment coming in since the pandemic started.
An ad hoc committee representing both residents and landscapers, as well as representatives from Council and the Department of Community Services (DCS) was formed last year to study the issue and various ways of addressing it. The proposed ban would be in effect from June 1 to August 31, and the results analyzed before a decision is made on a more extensive ban. The City’s Department of Public Works successfully switched to electric- and battery-operated blowers in 2020. Ward One Council Member David Naidu emphasized that the committee has worked to balance the needs of all shareholders, and is proposing the trial for the summer, when there will be the least impact on landscapers and the greatest benefit to residents using their outdoor spaces.
Little’s second ordinance would increase construction permit fees, the first such increase since 2011. Less construction activity in town means the fees do not adequately cover operating expenses for the construction office.
A hearing and vote were held on the Capital Projects & Community Services ordinance introduced by Little at the March 2 meeting. It adopts new stormwater management regulations for major developments to conform with 2020 amendments to the state’s stormwater regulations. It includes the use of green infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater. Little noted that Summit’s new DRO already contains similar provisions for minor developments. The ordinance passed on a unanimous roll call vote, although with a distinct Zoom-era twist: just as the vote was being taken, Ward One Council Member Susan Hairston’s feed froze, then disappeared. City Solicitor Matthew Giacobbe noted that there were sufficient votes to approve the ordinance, and that Hairston’s vote could be logged for the record when she reappeared. Hairston was eventually able to reconnect as the leaf-blower ordinance was being introduced and her “ayes” were duly noted.
Ward Two Council Member Greg Vartan introduced a Finance ordinance to authorize the City to increase its final budget appropriations by the statutorily permitted 3.5 % and to establish a cap bank to bank any unused amounts for the next two years. The ordinance is a budgeting technique that allows the Council to plan for unexpected expenditures. Vartan noted the City enacts such an ordinance each year, and “this doesn’t mean we will exceed the cap; as a matter of fact, we will not.”
Vartan moved five resolutions, the last of which began the evening on the Capital Projects & Community Services agenda. His first authorized emergency temporary appropriations of $277,000 to the 2021 temporary operating budget. His second similarly authorized $477,000 in emergency temporary appropriations to the 2021 temporary sewer utility budget to pay the Joint Meeting for wastewater treatment. Both passed on unanimous roll call votes.
Vartan’s next resolution authorized a five-year renewal of the Summit City Cooperative Pricing System. This co-op, created in 2011, comprises six municipalities, with Summit as the lead agency. It procures competitive pricing on City services such as, notably, road microsurfacing. The pact must be renewed every five years, and Summit, as lead, must initiate it. Next was a resolution to submit a matching grant application to the Union County Infrastructure and Municipal Aid Grant Program for a project that would improve the accessibility and storage of vital records through digitization and organization. The total cost of the project is $12,000. “This is absolutely necessary because the clerk’s office spends an inordinate amount of time in Open Public Record Act requests,” said Vartan. His final resolution assigned the one-year engineering contract with Maser Consulting approved by Council last December to Colliers Engineering and Design, and to amend the indemnification language. The company recently changed ownership and is now known as Colliers.
Ward Two Council Member Lisa Allen moved two Law & Labor resolutions. The first authorized a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Friends of Summit Public Art, a 501(c)(3) organization that has been formed to fundraise and accept donations for Summit Public Art. The Summit Area Public Foundation previously served in that role. The MOU outlines the City’s and the Friends’ roles and responsibilities. Allen's second resolution extends paid sick leave to a Parking Services Agency employee.
Little had a lengthy list of Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first awarded a bid in the amount of $52,025 to SJC Lawn Care for the spring planting of 125 trees. $10,000 of that amount is coming from a Union County grant. SJC did the fall planting. Next was a resolution approving the purchase of a new shell for the compost building at the Transfer Station using a General Services Administration contract instead of bidding the project. This will be funded by previous capital budgets. The building is “no longer weatherproof” and “probably well beyond” its expected lifespan, said Little. She bundled the next two resolutions to authorize the purchase of a new Mack dump truck and a dump body, plow kit, and spreader system for $103,555.10 and $61,033.61, respectively. The truck and accessories will be used by the DPW for paving and patching, as well as for snow plowing and storm clean-up. These purchases will be funded via the 2020 Capital Budget.
Council authorized a grant application to the Union County Infrastructure and Municipal Aid Grant Program to partially fund the Butler Parkway project, including road improvements, curbing, drainage, and sidewalks. Eligible projects must be “shovel-ready” and able to be completed in the calendar year. This project has been designed and bid, and matching funds are in place from the 2020 Capital Budget. Also approved was the Summit Environmental Commission’s grant application to the New Jersey American Water Company Environmental Grant Program for $10,000 to install a rain garden at the Summit Community Center, to plant native grasses adjacent to the Community Center building, and for outreach and educational programs.
Little next moved a resolution authorizing Cub Scout Pack 360 to clean up Martin’s Brook Park, along Butler Parkway, and possibly the Village Green as its community project on March 21. Naidu took the opportunity to invite the public to participate in the April 10 Earth Day Cleanup hosted by the Environmental Commission. Next up was an agreement for financial consulting services, not to exceed $75,000, with Nassau Capital Advisors of Princeton. The firm will advise the City on the Broad Street West redevelopment project to analyze the fiscal benefits and impacts of the project. Nassau Capital Advisors was chosen based on its qualifications, its familiarity with this type of work in other jurisdictions, and after meeting with the principals. The cost of these services will be reimbursed by the redevelopers’ escrow account. Observing that Council has dealt with several Broad Street-related matters recently, Vartan asked when the public might expect to be included “in Broad Street West conversations.” Council President Marjorie Fox replied it would most likely be late April or early May. Finally, Council appointed Dr. Jaime Levine as Alternate Member Number 4 on the Zoning Board.
Danny O’Sullivan, Ward One Council Member, moved three Community Programs & Parking Services resolutions. The first amends the contract with Parkmobile effective May 1. At that time, the $0.25 online parking convenience fee for each payment transaction will be paid by the user instead of the City. With parking revenues down due to the pandemic, Summit can no longer absorb the transaction fees. Parkers can avoid the transaction fee by paying at a kiosk. The change will be well-publicized before it goes into effect. Parking Services Manager Rita McNany added that the most frequent parking term is five hours, followed by 90 minutes and then 60 minutes. She suggested that if people aren’t sure how long they’ll need to stay, “to maybe pay for an extra half-hour all at one time,” rather than going back to add more time and incurring a second transaction fee. His second resolution amended the contract with SA Food Associates for the Summit Family Aquatic Center food concession. This is the last year of the five-year contract. Last year, the city lowered the fee paid by the concessionaire because of the pandemic. This year, the company is still concerned about how the season will shape up, despite assurances from the City that the season will be normal. Concession management will keep daily tallies, and if total sales for the 2021 season are above $90,000, SA Food Associates will pay the full $21,000 to the City. If sales fall below that level, the fee will be reduced on a sliding scale. O’Sullivan’s final resolution added the Summit Foundation as a member of the Silver Summit Senior Citizens Advisory Committee.
All resolutions passed.
In public comments, Karen Raihofer, Parkview Terrace, announced that Clean Ocean Action semi-annual 'beach sweeps' will take place along the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May on April 17, from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., rain or shine. Volunteers will collect garbage and recycling from the beaches and log what they find. This data will be analyzed to help identify sources of pollution. She recounted her own experience at a previous clean-up during which her small group found “hundreds of small pieces of plastic.” Raihofer expressed her wish not only that everyone recycles correctly and reduced plastic use but that that participants might have a similar “still moment when the magnitude of this problem reveals itself to you.” Summit’s Recycling Advisory Committee will be cleaning at the Asbury Park Convention Center beach, but she urged listeners to go to any site. Register at cleanoceanaction.org.
A caller who attempted to discuss leaf blowers was directed to wait until the April 6 meeting.
Carrie Fallon, Tulip Street, emailed that the track at Memorial Field needs maintenance “immediately,” pointing out the dangerous unevenness of its surface. Mark Ozoroski, community programs director, responded that he and the parks foreman walked the track in December and noted its condition, but felt it best to postpone work until the spring. When “the weather breaks,” routine maintenance will be done on all facilities, with the goal of having them ready April 1 for the spring sports season. The track will receive stone dust, grading, and leveling.
Other Business / General Information
Council recognized the retiring volunteer members, past and current, of the Transfer Station Task Force: Elaine Anderson, Community Programs Advisory Board representative; Karen Raihofer, Recycling Advisory Committee liaison; Jeff Hankinson, Environmental Commission representative; community-at-large members Trish Cassin, Rob Friedrich, Christopher Harrison, Jack Hellings, and Adam Zucker, who also served as chairman; Rick Matias and Aaron Schrager, Department of Community Services representatives; Mark Ozoroski, Department of Community Programs representative; and past and present council members Stephen Bowman, Marjorie Fox, David Naidu, and Matt and Stephanie Gould.
Naidu explained that the Task Force was formed in 2018 to investigate possible recreational uses for the Transfer Station property alongside transfer station operations. Having fulfilled its mission and filed its report, the task force has been disbanded. The discovery that the property may contain endangered species habitat narrowed the options for use, although options including trails, a dog park, or a boat launch may still be feasible. “It’s now up to Council... to consider what is doable,” said Naidu. He added that the land is actually leased from the County, further affecting what is implementable. The report should be available in the near future.
Mayor Nora Radest reported that the Department of Community Programs will host an 'Egg Hunt Race' on March 27, including an opportunity for socially distanced photos with the Easter Bunny.
City Administrator Michael Rogers spoke briefly about the American Rescue Plan recently signed by the president. It allocates $350 billion to states, counties, cities, and tribal governments to “mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The money will be distributed by the U.S. Treasury in two tranches, half within 60 days of the enactment of the law and the remainder no later than one year later. $19.5 billion is earmarked for municipalities with populations under 50,000. About $92 million is destined for Union County municipalities. To the best of his knowledge, Rogers said he expects Summit to receive at least $2.15 million, half this year and half next year, but the City is awaiting “more clarity.” Rogers said this will help Summit’s 2021 budget. He’s waiting for state and U.S. Treasury guidance prior to finalizing the City budget, which he expects to present at the second April Council meeting.
Beginning around April 1, JCP&L will begin work to increase the efficiency and capacity of transmission line circuits along Summit Avenue. The street will remain open to vehicular traffic, but parking will be suspended between Euclid and Springfield avenues. The work should last about a week.
Fox announced that the Silver Summit Committee is available to help seniors register for a COVID vaccination. Interested parties can call 908-605-0014 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Westfield Regional Health Department’s COVID vaccine webinar, held last week, is now posted on Summit’s YouTube channel.
In closing comments, Vartan applauded Brady O’Shea, the 13-year-old Summit resident who successfully completed the 4x4x48 challenge – running four miles every four hours for a total of 48 miles to raise thousands of dollars for Goryeb Children’s Hospital. Vartan viewed the finale of the run as a member of the EMS squad. He observed, “that level of athleticism is basically unfathomable to me,” adding that a crewmate not from Summit remarked he couldn’t imagine something like that happening in his town. Vartan thanked Brady, “who saw an opportunity to help other people, set a ridiculously ambitious goal, and he did it.”
Naidu, referencing the American Rescue Act, reminded listeners that he, Hairston, and Radest sit on the Board of School Estimate, and that schools will receive relief money as well. He believes the funds can be used for an HVAC system in the high school and air conditioning in the middle school. He extended his thanks to Congressman Tom Malinowski who voted in favor of the ARA.