SUMMIT, NJ - Despite opposition and a resulting vote of dissent from First Ward Councilman David Naidu, the Summit Common Council adopted a $1.9 million bond ordinance that will fund a number of repairs to the Tier Garage on Springfield Avenue, and also provides for equipment allowing for digital access to the Transfer Station.
Among the proposed Tier Garage repairs are a number of items damaged due to water infiltration along concrete sections of the garage and in light fixtures, repair of damaged protective fencing, cable railing with damaged wires, damaged floor treads on stairwells, various repairs to the elevator, and an upgrade from the lighting originally in the structure to LED lighting.
Although acknowledging the need for repairs at the garage, Naidu voted against the bond ordinance because he felt a more thorough review was needed of capital expenditures such as that for the garage while calling for a “comprehensive review” of the use of city resources such as the parking facility.
Naidu said that while the expenditure was billed as an “emergency measure” it was “in actuality, a capital expenditure that has been deferred by prior councils. In order for the work to be completed over the summer, it must start in June. Therefore, this start date is more for convenience rather than due to some true emergency. But, because it is being treated as an ‘emergency’ this project gets to be considered outside of the normal budgeting process when other capital expenditures will be reviewed. Thus, we lose the ability to make comparisons between competing fiscal needs and instead give this project priority. It may be that this project is, in fact, deserving; but without having any comparative basis, I am not in a position to make such an evaluation. Moreover, I do not believe this is sound fiscal strategy.”
The councilman, who chairs the governing body’s general services committee, added that, before spending the $1.9 million the council should consider how the parking facility is being used and “whether it is worth the investment.”
He called for a comprehensive analysis without just making “an ad hoc decision,” adding, “while this garage sits in the main shopping area, and while the main complaint about the downtown parking is that shoppers do not have parking near the stops, this garage is essentially reserved for employee parking during the period of peak demand -- weekdays between 12 and 2.”
Naidu added that, seven years ago, the City spend money on capital expenditures for the structure, and he wanted to know whether the age and income generation of the 37-year-old Tier Garage justify ongoing capital expenditures.
He also said he supported the idea of an audit of the parking authority in January and that audit would have examined the questions he was raising at the time of the bond proposal vote.
The First Ward representative added he would like to see an engineer’s report classifying the expenditure as a needed emergency repair “because it is not working or in imminent danger of collapse.”
He said justification for the bond measure was based “on a two-page memo and a handful of photographs.”
However, Second Ward Councilman Patrick Hurley, who serves on the general services committee with Naidu, said the Tier Garage was a city asset, although a parking asset, and, regardless of how it is used, the governing body could not “allow it to crumble.”
Hurley added that the city could not allow any of its structures that were used daily, as the garage was, to get to the point where they would present a danger to the public.
He shared, however, Naidu’s concerns about doing an operational audit of the parking assets and how the city can best utilize them.
The councilman added that the Tier Garage needed considerable work, although its purpose may change over time.
This project, he pointed out, like many other municipal projects, was being done during the summer in order to avoid inconveniencing the public and avoid work during the Christmas shopping season, which would harm the business of downtown merchants.
Although he conceded that a comprehensive maintenance program was needed, Hurley noted that progress toward that goal had been made over the last several years, citing the renovation of the city recreation center and improvements at Jefferson School by the board of education.
Democratic Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun agreed that the garage repairs were an emergency, but added that an ongoing maintenance plan for all city parking garages was needed.
Radest also supported the need for a comprehensive maintenance plan.
The emergent need for the Tier Garage repairs also was strongly supported by Second Ward Republican Councilwomen Mary Ogden and Sandra Lizza and Council President Mike McTernan.
While all three also supported a more comprehensive operational audit of the parking assets, Lizza said the Tier Garage was a capital asset and it needed to be repaired. She added that whether it was used for employee or shopper parking was a separate issue and “did not play into” the discussion of the bond issue.
She added that, if the Tier Garage situation was not addressed another year would pass before the repairs were made.
Parking services manager Rita McNany noted that some of the proposed repairs were addressing items that had been in the garage since it was built.
She noted the stairs were in disrepair, and three severe winters in the last three years had caused salt used to clear away ice and snow to eat away at cement in certain areas of the garage, despite power washing and there had been water infiltration into the elevator, causing it to stop working, and icing on some stair landings.
McNany said the lighting, in many areas as old as the facility, could save $30,000 per year in electric bills, but the improvements had been put off by past councils.
Replying to a question by Lizza, McNany said two part-time staff members clean the garage daily from Sunday through Friday, although the parking utility was looking for a way to improve that system.
She added that, every other year, an engineering inspection was done, alternating between the Broad Street Garage and the Tier Garage and the Broad Street garage had been inspected two years ago and repairs were requested the following year.
McNany noted, however, that an engineering inspection did an initial inspection of the Tier Garage last year, however, they will not do an in-depth inspection until the council awarded a contract.
She said she has put budget respects in but they were taken out of her budget.
Responding to a question from McTernan, McNany said last year’s capital budget provided only for improvements and repairs to the Broad Street garage and money allocated to explore possible building of another parking garage.
She denied not looking at a situation in the Tier Garage that possibly could be an emergency situation.
In another measure related to the Tier Garage, the council did adopt a resolution authorizing Boswell Engineering, Inc. to provide engineering services in connection with improvements at the garage at a maximum fee of $80,500.
Rick Carbone, the man who has directed the Summit Youth Football Program for the last 10 years and has served as a volunteer coach with the program and with the Summit High School football program for the past 36 years, with a proclamation by Mayor Nora Radest and congratulations from governing body members.
As detailed on TAPinto Summit February 11, Carbone is stepping down from the youth program, but will continue to serve as offensive line coach at the high school. He will be replaced in the youth program by Kevin Fagan, a volunteer coach and administrator for Summit Youth Football for the past six years and an offensive lineman on the Harvard University Football Team from 1989 to 1994.
In accepting the honor declaring March 15 as “Rick Carbone Appreciation Day” in the Hilltop City, Carbone said his service was “all about the kids.” He said not every child excels in the classroom and sports provide an outlet that enables children to build confidence, learn to deal with adversity and develop leadership abilities.
Additional Council Business
On another matter, the councilmen authorized an agreement with Topology NJ LLC to provide on-call redevelopment planning and real estate advisory services to the city at a fee not to exceed $40,000.
In response to a question by Hurley, it was explained that Topology, which will be providing services in connection with the city’s review of its master plan this year, would be responding to inquiries from business owners possibly interested in locating in Summit, not acting to recruit businesses to locate in the Hilltop City.
The governing body also heard a report by Rob Walton, area manager for Jersey Central Power & Light Co., who noted the utility services more than one million customers in 13 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Walton noted the utility had invested $267 million on its energy infrastructure in 2015 and had conducted tree trimming along 3,300 miles of its circuits -- although Summit was not included in that tree-trimming program.
He also said JCP&L uses infrared scanning equipment to discover equipment in need of service where that need could not be determined visually.
The utility firm official said his firm had addressed sections of the city around Oak Ridge Road and Mountain Avenue that had experienced continuing outages by “tying” circuits together in an effort to restore service more rapidly.
Walton said that, even discounting Hurricane Sandy and the other severe storms in 2013, that year had been a particularly bad one in terms of outages for the utility.
He added that, generally, more outages have occurred due to the growth in the number of residences and in usage of a number of electronic devices, especially during the peak summer air conditioning season.
He did say, however, that, last year, two-thirds of the city had escaped with no outages at all.
Walton said residents who experience outages should notify the utility as soon as the outages happen and not assume the utility knows their lights are out just because their neighbors’ lights are out.
He added residents may now may use mobile devices to notify the utility by going to “Summit My Town” on the JCP&L website. That area of the site also will contain updates on outages, he noted.
McTernan urged the city to include a link to the utility website on the city’s current website and on the new Summit website, which is scheduled to be rolled out on April 1.
Walton also said the utility is gradually working to replace street lights with LED lights and, although it may take some time to complete the program, it will mean a considerable savings over the long run for communities.