SUMMIT, NJ - In a meeting that was primarily focused on getting the city prepped to do business throughout 2019, the City of Summit Common Council heard City Administrator Michael Rogers share the positive news that, on January 22 and by consent of the Fair Share Housing Center and Special Master Philip Caton, Judge Camille Kenny entered the City’s final Round 3 Judgment of Compliance and Repose, meaning Summit’s Round 3 Fair Share Plan is approved and the city has immunity from all Mount Laurel lawsuits through July 2, 2025.
There was a packed agenda of resolutions. with Council Member at Large Beth Little moving eight Finance resolutions. Five of them consolidated existing bond notes for subsequent sale. Little explained that the City has been working with both its bond counsel and financial advisors to develop a plan most beneficial to the City, rolling shorter-term debt into longer-term bonds and locking in the interest rate. The general bonds total $26,473,000. This comprises $535,000 for curb and sidewalk assessment bonds, $1,545,000 for sewer bonds, and $2,280,000 for parking bonds.
There was also a resolution providing for the sale of a note for $1,175,000 for the City’s share of the Joint Meeting sewage and waste water treatment. Ward 2 Council Member Stephen Bowman pointed out that this was for standard annual maintenance fees, not for the special project that had been discussed last year. Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan questioned the structure of the bond payments between 2021 and 2025. Marge Gerba, City treasurer and CFO, and Paul Cascais, Department of Community Services director, explained that there are regulatory constraints on how a “conforming schedule” is structured, whereby the smallest payment can’t be less than half the largest payment. Each of these resolutions was voted on by roll call, as mandated by state law, and each passed unanimously.
Little also moved a resolution to appoint Jonathon Betz as chair of the Summit Economic Development Advisory Committee, and to authorize the transfer of appropriations within the operating budget. Both resolutions passed.
Marjorie Fox, Ward 2 council member, successfully moved a dozen Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions:
- The council voted to accept a $20,000 donation to fund a second year of the Hometown Heroes banner program. The money, raised by the Hometown Heroes Committee, came from the public, the Summit Area Foundation, Investor Savings Foundation, and Summit Downtown. Permission is being sought to expand the program to 15 city-owned poles on Springfield Avenue.
- Approved was the appointment of Karen Pittle Gale to the Shade Tree Advisory Committee.
- Also approved was the $81,544 purchased of a heavy-duty roll-off trailer to transport recyclables. This new vehicle will replace a 1994 trailer that’s no longer serviceable. The replacement was budgeted for in the 2015 capital budget, but the Department of Public Works was able to stretch the current vehicle’s life span until now. The trailer will be purchased from Vasso Systems in Brooklyn as suitable equipment isn’t available locally.
- Council agreed to renew the five-year registration for the City commodity resale system, allowing Summit to sell things such as diesel fuel and gasoline to other members of this shared services agreement.
- A bid award for $261,355 to S. Batata Construction of Parlin was approved for the Village Green Phase II improvement project. Pedestrian safety and convenience in the green’s southwestern “memorial” quadrant will be upgraded with improved walkways, lighting, and amenities like benches and plantings. Funding comes from a NJDOT Safe Streets to Transit grant.
- Also authorized was a professional services agreement not to exceed $45,000 for an in-house City planner from Burgis Associates, Inc. of Westwood with office hours one day a week. The money comes from the 2019 municipal land use operating budget and minimizes the need for additional headcount. Summit has done this for the past six years.
During a vote to amend the existing Summit Free Market construction and use agreement to allow $30,000 in grant money to be put towards building costs, Council President David Naidu, who sits on the Free Market board, recused himself; the vote was presided over by President pro tem Matt Gould. After McTernan pointed out an accounting error in the accompanying budget, Cascais agreed to provide an amended budget sheet.
Finally, Fox bundled five resolutions for special engineering services on a consulting basis, capitalizing on the various firms’ individual strengths and saving on staffing. The amounts approved are the same as last year’s; Cascais noted that last year, about 75 percent of the allocated budget was actually used. The firms approved are;
- Mott MacDonald (site remediation, not to exceed $200,000);
- Neglia Engineering Associates (sanitary sewer, not to exceed $100,000);
- Maser Consulting (traffic, not to exceed $100,000);
- Harold E. Pellow & Associates, Inc. (design, survey, and inspection, not to exceed $50,000); and
- Boswell Engineering (design, survey, and inspection, not to exceed $250,000).
Three Law & Labor resolutions moved by Bowman declared a full-time and a part time vacancy in for parking enforcement officers, extended paid sick leave for a parking services agency employee, and extended paid injury leave for a DCS / DPW employee. All resolutions passed.
In his president’s remarks, Naidu recognized the hard work of Rogers and Cascais over the past several years, culminating in the favorable resolution of the affordable housing issue. He also praised the city’s crossing guards for their dedication and hard work, particularly during the recent arctic weather.
Naidu then read a statement from the mayor and the Council in response to a proposed “vegetation management response act” that would allow a utility to cut down trees within 100 feet of the right of way, even on private property. While the legislation is currently on hold, he pointed out that it is not actually dead.
The council wants to send a “clear message” to its representatives in Trenton that Summit, a 'Tree City USA' town, recognizes the importance of its trees in supporting property values, reducing heating and cooling costs, managing storm water runoff, and reducing the carbon footprint. The letter further states that removing trees without due process or compensation is unacceptable, as is taking action without consulting the city’s Shade Tree Committee and municipal arborist. The missive will be sent to the appropriate assembly and senate members.
Earlier in the meeting, attendees heard a presentation by John Nicholas, vice chairman of the Union County Air Traffic Noise Advisory Board. This volunteer organization worked for more than 30 years to help make the skies quieter and head off potentially noisier air traffic changes. The metropolitan airspace is among the busiest in the world, and Summit is only ten miles from Newark's Liberty Airport, the 17th busiest in North America. Since most locally originating flights are headed west, Summit is in their flight path. The Port Authority estimates that in 2019, there will be 457,000 flights in and out of Newark Airport. The airport operates 24/7, with late-night international flights and overnight cargo flights.
Nicholas said the board works with the FAA to keep flight paths the least noisy as possible, pointing out that the FAA’s main concerns are efficiency and safety, not noise. He mentioned talk of a “metroplex” airspace redesign, which lets planes fly with GPS headings instead of in set air lanes; he noted this was not a success when tried out in Arizona. He also mentioned that the FAA is in the second year of a three-year Part 150 study, prescribing the procedures governing the development, review, and evaluation of airport noise exposure maps and noise compatibility programs. McTernan asked whether Morristown Airport falls within the board’s scope; Nicholas replied that while it is included, its traffic is primarily smaller, quieter jets.
Radest made a mayoral proclamation marking the 20th anniversary of the Area Baby Center, which provides basic necessities such as diapers, wipes, and baby toiletries to disadvantaged families in the community. Barbara Pasciucco and Barbara Densen described the volunteer group’s work, including distributing some 5,000 diapers a month. The organization currently serves about 36 families and works with up to 60 a year, supporting families until their child is potty-trained. They estimated the group has distributed two million diapers since its founding. Radest spotlighted one young volunteer, a Berkeley High School sophomore, who was an early client and who now helps with distributions and translation.