SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Common Council, at its last meeting before the August recess, approved a property tax settlement agreement with Atlantic Health System, the parent corporation of Overlook Medical Center in Summit.
Overlook and the City have been in negotiations to settle outstanding property tax appeals covering 2014-17.
Under terms of the settlement approved by the Council at the meeting and agreed to by Atlantic Health System, Overlook’s parent company will pay the city $5.56 million - $795,400 annually -- through 2023. The payments will settle outstanding property tax appeals by the City and counterclaims by Atlantic Heath, as well as provide support for community health initiatives with the City. The agreement is binding on both parties.
At the meeting, Council finance chairman Stephen Bowman reported that the payments by the hospital entity include:
- $3,219,000 in support for community services
- $1.4 million in support of programs for youth and senior citizens at the Summit Community Center
- $948,500 for public health program support.
Commenting on the settlement, Ward I representative David Naidu said the settlement comes on the heals of tax appeals by many communities throughout the state that host medical care facilities.
He noted the agreement came after months and months of tough negotiating on both sides, during which the city had to balance what may have been a victory in the courts against extensive legal fees on both sides and the possibility of a number of appeals and possible action by the state legislature.
Atlantic Health System will make the payments to the Hilltop City unless legislation is passed that requires hospitals to pay higher amounts to their host cities, in which case the health organization will pay the higher amount.
Mayor Nora Radest also praised the community services and programs that will result from the settlement and cited the uncertainty of legislation that could have affected the tax appeals process.
Council president Michael McTernan added that the City of Morristown eventually dropped its appeals in the case against the Atlantic Health System facility in that city after a settlement was reached.
McTernan also said a per-bed tax idea floated in the legislature would have been bad for Summit, adding that “good faith negotiations” in Summit produced an agreement that is fair and equitable to both sides and produced results better than those in most other communities with similar appeals.
He also praised Overlook as a valuable asset to Summit, including not only its community programs but also its status as one of the top employers of Summit residents.
In a statement issued at the time of the council action, Overlook president Alan Lieber said, “We greatly value the partnership that Overlook Medical Center has with the community of Summit, and we recognize the responsibility we have. This agreement reflects our ongoing commitment to contribute not only as health care providers but as good neighbors.”
In a second big-ticket action at the council meeting, the governing body voted to award a $6,099,100 contract to H&S Construction & Mechanical, Inc. of Elizabeth for construction of the Summit Community Center Renovation Project.
The contract covers a base bid of $5,955,000 plus additional bids for a wall and sign, the East Parking Lot, basement stairs, wall pads in the gymnasium, masonry restoration, a basement electrical panel and acoustic panels in the gymnasium.
In two measures related to the project, the Council also approved a $22,410 contract with Unipro Environmental Contracting Services for asbestos abatement in the current community center, and application for a Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund Grant to be used to relocate the center’s current bocce court to a location next to the existing parking lot, adjacent to Morris Avenue and “other amenities to include shuffleboard, outdoor ping pong, a seating area and pavilion.”
The City will match the $100,000 County contribution to the grant with $100,000.
In another action, the governing body introduced an ordinance that would bring forward the time during which alcoholic beverages can be consumed on licensed premises on Sundays from noon to 9 a,m, -- at the request of retailers who wish to offer alcohol during their Sunday brunch.
The public hearing and possible final adoption of the ordinance will be held on September 5.
Council members also authorized a Summit PAL 'Making a Difference 5K Run' on Saturday, September 9 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Village Green and a community-wide celebration on Sunday, October 1, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., to include a parade, carnival games, bounce house and food trucks, also at the Village Green. Both events are to honor Summit Police Detective Matthew Tarentino, who passed away May 30.
In another action, the Council voted to allocate $51,302.65 from the 2017 capital budget for the purchase of police body cameras.
Police Chief Robert Weck told the Council members that the cameras proposed for purchase have been thoroughly “vetted” by observation of their use by other public safety organizations and their use will be governed by operating procedures approved by the New Jersey attorney general.