SUMMIT, NJ - Everything was streamlined at the Summit Common Council’s July 31 meeting, the last before the August break. With no presentations or ordinances on the agenda the Council, under the gavel of President pro tem Matthew Gould, focused on a list of resolutions.
City Administrator Michael Rogers, Council President David Naidu, and Ward 2 Council Member Stephen Bowman were absent. And in the audience there was a lone reporter and single spectator, a gentleman who entered after the public comments portion of the meeting. When Gould nonetheless offered him an opportunity to speak, he replied that he came “just to listen.” Gould applauded his civic-mindedness, observing that virtually everyone else there essentially had to be.
In her report, Mayor Nora Radest detailed:
- Summit's upcoming :National Night Out" and related activities set for August 7.
- Memberships, as of August 1, at the Summit Family Aquatic Center (SFAC) are half-price. The SFAC is expected to be open daily through Labor Day, weather permitting.
- The Summit Free Market has received approval for its building permit, and construction could begin as soon as September. The Summit Conservancy continues to raise money to help fund construction, with those interested in donating asked to visit summitconservancy.org.
At the meeting, a series of resolutions, all of which passed unanimously, most with little discussion were presented:
Council Member-at-large Beth Little introduced a Finance / Personnel resolution certifying the 2017 audit review. The review had only a few minor recommendations, and Little recognized Marge Gerba, City treasurer / chief financial officer, and her team for a job well done.
Also approved was the appointment of Nicole Sarna as deputy city clerk, effective August 1, and a bookkeeping reclassification and accompanying salary authorizations for two people who had not been employees at the time of the previous Council meeting, as well as the extension of paid sick leave for three employees.
Ward 2 Council Member Mary Ogden moved to authorize applying for a Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund 2018 matching grant. Summit received a $50,000 grant last year and is asking for $100,000 this year towards a bocce court and senior pocket park. Matching funds have already been earmarked.
A second General Services resolution authorized a change order for $6,596 for unforeseen work on the community center renovation. Ogden explained that an existing steel beam turned out not to have been built as anticipated; these funds cover the work to rectify that.
Council approved the expenditure of $35,720 for lot counting equipment in the Broad Street and Springfield Avenue garages. This equipment -- already in use in the DeForest Avenue lot -- tallies and displays the number of open spaces in a parking lot and indicates when the lot is full.
Rita McNany, parking services manager, explained the equipment would free Parking Authority employees from doing manual counts throughout the day. It would also cut down the common complaint of drivers entering lots only to find them filled. The parking authority also received permission to add two part-time parking enforcement officers, with the understanding that the positions would be reevaluated in six months’ time. The force currently comprises two full-time and two part-time officers.
Little noted that better enforcement would help ensure that “spaces are used as they’re meant to be used, maximizing … the parking we do have downtown.” McNaney defended the additions, saying her people had taken on additional responsibilities such as enforcing two-hour zones. She added that factors such as sick leave and vacations impact her staff, remarking that one employee was going out on nine months’ military leave.
Ward 2 Council Member Marjorie Fox introduced a safety resolution accepting a donation from the Reeves Foundation to the Police Department. The $25,867.98 gift would purchase a 2019 Harley-Davidson Police FLHTP Electra Glide motorcycle and two radio-equipped helmets. The motorcycle would be used for daily traffic enforcement and special occasions such as parades. Police Chief Robert Weck noted how a motorcycle, being less obvious than a cruiser, can be a valuable tool in changing the behavior of speeding motorists.
Fox also introduced a pair of Works resolutions. The first authorized the submission of a 2018 Greening Union County matching grant application for approximately $10,800 to cover the purchase and planting of 80 new trees. The match money will be in the 2019 budget. The ongoing maintenance of the city’s tree canopy helps it maintain its Tree City USA designation. Gould, in favor of the resolution, suggested it seemed like the City needed far more trees than that. Little explained that these would be planted on City property or the City’s right-of-way between sidewalks and curbs, and it’s challenging to find homes for all the trees the city would like to plant.
Paul Cascais, public works director, expanded on that saying that after destructive storms, for example, some residents start to think “after these trees are removed … about not having trees in front of their properties because of the power outages.” He pointed out it takes up to 60 years to develop a good canopy, and the City has to plan out “succession growth.” He added that Summit has successfully participated in the grant program for at least nine years, funding 60 to 80 trees a year. Replying to a question from Gould about the various species selected, some of them exotics, Cascais said the city forester looks for diversity. If a disease or predator, like the ash borer beetle, hits the area, the City won’t lose all its trees. He said Summit works with JCP&L, as well, to put in trees that can better coexist with power lines and be pruned successfully. Bigger trees are chosen for areas with no wires. The City opts to select its own fairly mature trees rather than use Union County’s vendor on Long Island and manage its own plantings.
Council also authorized declaring a vacancy in the sewer maintenance unit to replace a retiring employee.
Under Buildings and Grounds, Fox moved the authorization of a professional services agreement, not to exceed $50,000, for redevelopment attorney Joseph Maraziti of Maraziti Falcon LLP. His fee will be divided between this year’s and next year’s budget. Maraziti is a Summit resident. He will advise the city on its response to eight developers that submitted proposals for the Broad Street West Redevelopment Request for Qualifications. Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan noted that there was unanimous agreement among the selection committee that Maraziti was the best choice.
A second resolution authorized applying for a New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) 2018 Transportation Alternative Set-aside Program non-matching grant, in an amount up to a million dollars. Funds would dramatically enhance pedestrian safety by completing the sidewalk network on Broad Street and Morris Avenue. Chief beneficiaries would be pedestrians approaching Overlook and walking from Broad towards downtown. Steep slopes make the area treacherous, and at a certain point, the sidewalk disappears, forcing walkers on the “wrong side” to backtrack or risk crossing a busy street.
McTernan expressed interest that this could be connected in some way with the nearby Summit Park Line project. Gould raised the issue that sidewalk installation in front of private property normally comes at an expense to the owner. Cascais responded that this grant would cover that charge. He also noted that if the grant isn’t received, the sidewalks will ultimately be addressed via the capital budget.
There were no Council Member comments or new business, and the meeting was adjourned at 8:38 p.m. The Council will next meet on Tuesday, September 4, at 7:30 p.m.