LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Members of the Little Falls Council on June 26 held a public hearing and passed an ordinance in order to create more official parking availability in the parking lot between the Little Falls Civic Center and the former Little Falls Police Department building.

The former police building, which is located at 35 Stevens Ave., has been vacant since the department moved to its current location at 225 Main St. The ordinance was introduced at the prior council meeting.

According to Mayor James Damiano, the lot is currently being used for parking, particularly for staff from the Little Falls Public Library.

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"There are no markings for parking on the ground but an engineer would have to look at the space to maximize parking," he said. "Library staffers would be able to officially park their cars there now."

Introduction of truck weight ordinance

An ordinance was introduced which amended the weight of trucks coming through the township from four tons to 13 tons. Damiano said because many SUVs exceed the ordinance's four ton limit. 

"It wasn't our intent to prohibit an average SUV from using our streets, so we're looking to amend the weight for that ordinance," he explained. 

Mayor's Report

Damiano then gave an update on where the township stands halfway through the year since he took office. One of the highlighted accomplishments he said was the 2017 budget adoption by the council, which saw a decrease in municipal expenditures. 

"Significant decrease in revenues resulted in a small tax increase but we were able to decrease spending," he said. "This council has indicated that they would like to move forward with future improvements to our downtown area so I was very excited for the extra $500,000 we put aside. We plan enhance our downtown area for parking and other improvements for our residents."

He also highlighted the PBA and Teamsters bargaining unit contract, settled this year.

"They are under contract again and we're moving forward with it," he said, adding that the increases have been incorporated into the 2017 budget and reflect a 1.75 percent increase in salary per year for the next three years.

Also in the works is a truck route ordinance scheduled to be brought to the county level for review for final approval.

"Once it's amended, it will sent to the county," Damiano explained. "We'll have our official truck routes in Little Falls, which will make our local roads much safer once the ordinance is adopted.

Preventing E-cigarette sale to minors 

Damiano also emphasized the crackdown on vapor electronic cigarettes being sold to minors.

"We have taken a major step this year with regard to them and it was brought to our attention that there was a major health issue with regard to children who were able to purchase them," he added. "It's nicotine so it's not a controlled substance."

According to Damiano, many children who acquire them end up drinking the substance rather than smoking it. However, state and federal governments do not regulate the substance as of yet.

"Instead of smoking it, which was bad enough for a child, they were drinking the liquid and essentially, they are getting this new sense of a high that came with drinking this liquid nicotine," he said. "What we were ale to do on the local level, is we've introduced a licensing process for anyone who wishes to sell the electronic cigarettes, or in particular, the liquid that is used to sell these electronic cigarettes."

Businesses are required to now pay a fee to the Little Falls Health Department, as a result of an ordinance that passed recently.

"The ordinance allows the health department to regulate the sale of liquid nicotine," he explained. "This is to ensure that anyone who wants to legitimately sell this product understands they're gong to have to comply with all of the health guidelines that our ordinance now requires."

Peckman River Flood Monitoring

Damiano also touted the newly installed flood gauges that are said to improve information regarding the flow of the Peckman River.

"We've made a major stride with respect to our Peckman River. The flood gauges that have been a long time coming have finally been installed and from what I understand they are operational," he explained. "We should be getting some real data from Gotham Analytics, the company who installed these gauges. They monitor not only the current flow but the also predicts where the flow may go, in the event of a flash flood. We're looking we're looking to gather this information and inform residents to make the town as safe as possible."

Traffic Violations/Property Taxes Online Payment

Damiano spoke of the township's move towards having minor traffic violations be paid online rather than having to appear in person at the violations bureau. 

"This has been an issue that has been brought to us that has gotten our attention on a number of occasions here in town where a minor traffic violation may require an appearance here in our municipal court," he added. "That had to do with really an ordinance that did not allow these tickets to paid online so we have taken steps on the local level to improve the ordinance."

He also said that several other steps need to be taken at the county and state levels the administrative offices of the courts in the county to permit the change.

"Once approved at the county, which we're hoping will be without issue, it will then be forwarded down to Trenton to have our computer systems allow residents and nonresidents to pay for these violations online rather than someone taking time off from work," he further added. "It will help our judicial process here in town, where we'd like to address other issues."

In addition, residents will be able to pay their property taxes online beginning Aug. 1.

"This will assist our taxpayers in a far more convenient way and they won't have to appear here at our municipal building," he said. "We are updating our website and are looking to make it more user friendly and hopefully that will be more convenient for residents to access information and materials and keep that as up-to-date as possible so that people have somewhere to visit online when they need information about our town."

COAH requirements

Damiano also touted Little Falls becoming the first municipality in the county to settle its Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations.  

"This is something has now insulated us from builders' actions through 2025," he said. "It means a builder cannot come in and sue the municipality to allow them to get a more dense structure, such as apartments or townhouses. Builders cannot sue us and we will not allow a variance on the planning board level. Hopefully, we have an additional eight years of no builders taking any action against the municipality, which are extremely expensive for us to defend."

Capital Improvements

According to Damiano, the township's road resurfacing program is back, which was started just a couple of years ago.

"It's in full swing," he said, adding that for several years, the prior governing body had suspended the program.

Damiano said he believed the suspension of the program allowed for the deterioration of many of roadways in town and became cost prohibitive because of spending on the repairs of these roadways over the years. He added that it would have more cost effective for the town to resurface them from beginning.

"It should be done from the get-go, instead incurring these ongoing expenses," he remarked. "So we have allocated in the budget $300,000 toward the road resurfacing and are moving forward with that this year."

Damiano also commented on his goal of revitalizing the downtown district area.

"I want to have a downtown area that's bustling on weekdays and especially on weekends. I'd love to see more restaurants come to town for its maximum potential," he said. "We have many more plans on improving this township."