MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Committee held a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31 where the committee discussed goals for 2017 and further discussed the capital budget.
The committee first went over their 2016 goals, which included improved communication with the public. Last year a part-time communications and social media coordinator (program assistant) was hired to let the public know what programs the township is starting. The committee requested metrics from administration regarding website complaint submission and length of time it took to resolve complaints. Committee Member Richard Cook encouraged Township Administrator Victor Canning to use the nixle alert system more often to alert residents of circumstances such as cancelled garbage pickups, but Canning was resistant to overuse of the system.
The township’s 150th anniversary celebration is one such ongoing program the program assistant is informing the public about, with events held on Jan. 1, April 11, and at the township’s July 4th celebration. Administration has completed a 10-year facility plan. Another goal, reviewing personnel needs, had been performed consistently, Canning said, because department heads have changed often. Township Clerk Trudy Atkinson will be retiring Aug. 31 and Township Planner Ryan Conklin left on Jan. 4, 2017, which will require further hiring.
“An extensive review of new ways to improve the township’s recycling program” was another goal, and Canning said he would like residents to know that recycling literally saves money on residents’ tax bills.
“When I drive around, I see only about 50% of residents putting out recycling bins every Wednesday,” he said, “But it saves us money and I wish more people would recycle.”
In 2016 Montville Township received $59,560 from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the township’s 2013 recycling efforts.
The committee discussed automated and once-per-week garbage pickup; the garbage contract will be up for bid in 2019.
Another goal is tackling the township’s drug problem, which was on the committee’s and aministration’s radar last year, also. Morris County will be hosting a drug symposium, so the committee is hoping to glean some ideas for a township-wide approach by attending that symposium.
The committee is distressed about the museum’s condition and Canning called its condition unsafe. Mayor Jim Sandham suggested asking the Montville Fire Department if space there could be used to sort the items. Canning favored cleaning the museum, possibly moving the items to the basement of the municipal building so it’s secure, sorting it, and at least setting up pictures on easels utilizing a theme. The committee agreed that everything would be handled with care. He said the collection has come a long way but is definitely not ready.
The committee also discussed a “streetscape program,” meaning a township-wide consistent plan for street-name signs and curbing designs. The Towaco Civic Association is working with the committee to purchase new signs for Route 202/Main Road in Towaco, and this will help determine part of the look for the rest of the township. Committee Member Richard Conklin favored removing many signs such as curves, suggested speeds, directions to area churches, and other, in his opinion, unnecessary signs. Committee Member Deb Nielson wanted the goal to include old, dirty signs, and lighting, “because we have people complaining that there are areas in town without enough lighting.” Guide rails were also mentioned. Deputy Member Frank Cooney wanted zoning enforcement for signs.
Sandham desired a long-term financial plan.
“We have 60% of it done with the facilities plan,” he said, “but when you look at the six-year capital plan, it tends to fall off.”
Nielson was also interested in additional community outreach.
“We’ve done a good job with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but for me there’s always room for improvement,” she said.
She pointed to Denville’s Coffee with a Cop program, and she wanted Montville Township police to be “more visible in the community.”
She said township police don’t have an image problem, but it can always be enhanced. She would like the chief and officers to meet families and kids.
“It should be a multi-pronged approach so people understand, they live here in town and they’re a resource in the community,” she said.
She also supported a “thank you” breakfast for those who serve on township boards and commissions, plus a community survey, which Conklin has been suggesting for some time.
“What is it that they like about Montville Township?” she said. “To get their ideas.”
Sandham said surveys are a “double-edged sword.”
“You have to be ready for the responses,” he said. “You have to be ready for people to say, ‘I talked to three of my neighbors who said this was an issue and it’s been six months and you guys haven’t done anything about it.’”
Nielson suggested a “carefully crafted” online survey with 1-10 rating scales.
“I heard comments recently about a new pool in town,” she said. “Well, that’s probably not feasible, and that might be popular with one segment for awhile, and tennis courts were popular. We can take that all in context and if we see a pattern, we can explore it further.”
Nielson wanted to use social media and the press for positive and negative feedback with the community. She wanted to know, for example, if the community wished to have Saturday town hall hours.
Nielson also wanted the health department and dial-a-ride services to be evaluated, and Sandham wanted demographics over the next ten years to be evaluated.
Sandham asked Canning to prioritize the goals and make them measurable.
The committee went over spending in the 2017 proposed Engineering Department budget. Administration proposed the purchase of a $35,000 vehicle, but the committee was resistant because they would like to see a vehicle pool so that any member of any department could use any vehicle. The sidewalks on Jacksonville Road near Camp Dawson, which are currently macadam, will be replaced with concrete, at a price tag of $100,000. The Camp Dawson dam will be repaired, which will cost $200,000. Waughaw Road improvements are proposed which will cost $350,000. The municipal parking lot will be improved and repaved due to icing at a cost of $105,000.
The renovation of the Community Park playground will not occur in 2017.
Canning stated that $1.25 million has been proposed as part of the budget to be utilized to pave and improve 16 roads in the township for 2017.
To sign up for the Montville Township nixle alert system, which alerts residents via emails and/or texts with important information, go to nixle sign up.