SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Common Council wrapped up 2016 with many good wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season, but also with mixed feelings about saying goodbye to two who have served the City.
Second Ward Councilwoman Sandra Lizza, who decided not to seek reelection, will leave the governing body at the end of this month. She will be replaced by fellow Republican Steven Bowman.
Albert Cruz, who has been City Solicitor, also will be leaving the Dais in January.
In her remarks about Lizza, Mayor Nora Radest cited the outgoing governing body member’s “exceptional dedication and incomparable dedication and drive.”
Radest added that the Second Ward representative made important contributions to the City budget process and redesign of the Summit website.
Fellow Second Ward Councilwoman Mary Ogden, who was chairwoman of the Summit Republican Committee that selected LIzza as a candidate for Council, cited Lizza’s passion for public service and her ability to look carefully at every bit of spending the city did.
Ogden also cited Lizza’s participation in bringing the tax rate increase under 2 percent and her role in the City hiring Michael Rogers as City administrator.
Rogers, who called Lizza “a consummate professional,” said she had been very helpful to him and a pleasure to work with for 15 months.
Council president Michael McTernan said Lizza, whom he met when she became his running mate during his first campaign for Council, said “she was always the most prepared person in the room” when it came to governing body business, but added she always approached decisions with a “warm heart and how they would affect each person.”
First Ward Democratic Councilman David Naidu cited Lizza’s “pushing and prodding” with her questions to help others better understand each issue.
He also thanked her for helping him as a new councilman to “quickly get up to speed” on a number of issues.
Democratic Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun said Lizza “set an incredibly high bar” and had a passion for solving problems and helping other councilmen become better prepared on complex issues.
First Ward Republican Councilman Robert Rubino said it had been a pleasure serving with Lizza whose service, he said, made her mother and her late father proud. He cited her for increasing his knowledge of Facebook and the other social media.
Second Ward Republican Councilman Patrick Hurley said Lizza’s efforts “made others look good when we may not have been as well prepared.”
Of Cruz, Ogden and Naidu, who have served as chairman and vice chairman of the council’s law committee this year, said the Solicitor had been a tremendous help in explaining the intricacies of the law and making the committee function more effectively.
When it was her turn to respond to remarks from her colleagues, Lizza pointed to a long list of accomplishments in which she participated but to which she gave credit to all her colleagues:
- Helping the City earn a AAA bond rating by three rating agencies; bringing about the first City tax decrease in recent memory in 2014; and holding the increases to under 1 percent for the last two years;
- Bringing about an improved infrastructure, a sewer master plan and drainage improvements;
- Investment by the ouncil in City schools, with $17.5 million for substantial work and $4.5 million for an expanded community center and improvements to the tennis courts at Tatlock Park and parking lot improvements at the Summit Aquatic Center.
- Completion of the conduit under the streets of the downtown;
- A focus on safety and prevention with fire and police departments, a new program emphasizing pedestrian safety and more outreach by police to senior citizens;
- “Vastly improved” lighting in the downtown and new measures for traffic calming such as flashing beacons and signage;
- Advanced emergency response capability through such shared services as the opening of the joint emergency dispatch center with New Providence and Millburn;
- Parking improvements such as institution of a single type of pay machine in all lots, license plate recognition technology, kiosks instead of meters on Railroad Avenue, the Park Mobile application to make it easier for customers to pay for parking, 14 spots added downtown and an independent parking review recently completed to provide a framework and direction for future improvements;
- “Supporting a vibrant business environment downtown and throughout Summit” and a re-energized Summit Downtown Inc. working on branding and signage in the central business district, retail recruitment, increased marketing resources, new events and working closely with the city department of public works on the downtown beautification project.
Lizza added, “One of the areas I helped focus efforts on was creating a welcoming informational experience for community and business across all touchpoints.”
She pointed to the launching of a new city website with expanded city news and information, and a finance section with access to a 200-page budget report.
The outgoing representative also said that, through the efforts of she and her colleagues, there now was a much higher engagement with citizens—evidenced by the master plan reexamination process and the holding of many more information sessions before major programs or projects are considered.
She also cited a renewed focus on customer service by all City staff “cognizant that we are stewards of the city.”
Internally, Lizza said many improved processes now make information flow better and there are more shared learnings among staff, the Council and the Mayor.
She concluded, “There are many challenges ahead but, with a much more involved staff, Council and Mayor you will get the job done together. I have been delighted and honored to be part of this team -- thanks to each and every one of you.”
In official action at the meeting, the Council adopted an ordinance creating the position of temporary municipal judge, and Ogden introduced a resolution to appoint retired Superior Court Judge John Callahan of Summit to the position.
The law committee chairwoman explained that Callahan had volunteered for a position serving the Union and Somerset County Vicinages to more efficiently process civil and criminal commitments.
Among a number of professional services agreements approved was a renewal, for the third year, of the City’s shared services agreement with Madison to have the Morris County borough continuing to provide information technology support services to Summit at a maximum annual cost of $90,000.
Lizza and Hurley noted the agreement would result in a savings of 18 percent over the cost of services provided this year.
The councilmen also authorized acceptance of a $2,000 donation by the Summit Elks Club to purchase ballistic vests for the Summit Police Department.
On another matter, McTernan called for recognition of the death of former Council member Helen Huber, who passed away on December 18.