Summit Council Adopts $500,000 Bond Ordinance to Fund Repairs to Broad Street Parking Garage; Firefighters, Recreation Personnel Cited

Summit Community Aquatic Center mascot Shark Diddy and Community Program Assistant Mike Fusco celebrate Fusco's state parks award at Tuesday's meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Community Programs Director Judith Leblein Josephs accepts her President's Service Award. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

SUMMIT, NJ—A $500,000 bond ordinance to fund repairs to the city’s Broad Street parking garage was adopted Tuesday by the Summit Common Council.

According to Councilman-at-Large Gregory Drummond, who sits on the general services committee, the garage was last upgraded in 2005 and work will include paving, waterproofing and general repairs.

Councilman Thomas Getzendanner voted against the measure, saying he felt the city’s parking services could be run more efficiently if the city leased its parking facilities to a private vendor who could offer better services to parking customers.

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Resident Anton Evers, however, said the city’s parking utility returns a considerable amount of money to the city treasury and pays for its own revenue and bonds without asking anything from the city.

“I assume it is run as a fine financial operation,” he said, adding that if a private company took over the parking facilities it probably would raise rates for all parking customers.

In other business, Mayor Ellen Dickson presented Fire Chief’s Awards to Battalion Chief Eric Evers and Firefighters Lonn Mullen and Ken Jenks for their response to a medical emergency on Morris Avenue on February 8 that resulted in saving the life of a resident with a heart ailment.

Dickson also presented New Jersey Park and Recreation Association awards to the following from Summit:

  • Gretchen Masterfano, who works in guest services for the Summit Family Aquatic Center for excellence in promotion with the Summit Splash newsletter.
  • Mike Fusco, program assistant in the city’s department of community programs for excellence in programming for Shark Diddy’s Birthday Bash.
  • Department of Community Programs Director Judith Leblein Josephs, who received the President’s Service Award.

The mayor also proclaimed Friday, April 27 as Arbor Day in Summit and presented a copy of the proclamation to Christina Amundsen, who chairs the Summit Shade Tree Advisory Committee.

In addition, Dickson announced on Arbor Day trees would be planted at the Wilson Primary Center and the Summit Community Center to replace trees lost in last fall’s storms.

In another action, the council adopted an ordinance allowing the city to exceed the state’s 2 percent cap on budget appropriations increases.

Dave Bomgaars, chair of the finance committee, explained the city was permitted to exceed the limit by as much as 1.5 per cent and to make use of any appropriations “banked” in this way for any emergencies that might arise after the annual budget is finalized.

Getzendanner, while acknowledging the measure gave the city additional budgetary flexibility, said exceeding the limit was going against the will of the taxpayers who wanted to see the city stay within spending limits.

City Chief Financial Officer Scott Olsen explained, however, that use of the “cap bank” in 2010 enabled the city to meet an extraordinary high pension obligation and, he added, it possibly could be used to meet high employee health care costs this year.

Also, Olsen said, if the city were to experience storm damage in 2013 of the magnitude it suffered this fall it possibly could use the cap bank to pay for that damage.

He noted the cap bank is not included in budgetary appropriations for the current year but could be used through an emergency appropriation. He said it gave the city more “headroom” to work with in the budgetary process.

Getzendanner, in commenting on the budgetary process in general, said the city should include “placeholders” for 2013 and 2014 in the process to enable budget planning for future years. This practice had been followed up to two years ago, he noted, and had been discontinued.

Councilman Patrick Hurley agreed with Getzendanner that the city should engage in more multi-year budgetary planning and should also look to decrease expenditures by promoting shared services among city departments as it does between the city department of public works and the board of education.

Council President Richard Madden announced Tuesday’s scheduled public hearing on the budget had been postponed until April 17 because City Administrator Chris Cotter is at a conference this week and Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo was not able to attend Tuesday’s council meeting.

He added the city hoped to have its Budget Snapshot in the hands of residents by this Friday, pending the receipt of final budgetary figures from Union County.

Dickson announced the county reported about 10 percent of its workforce would be cut this year and the county MusicFest had been cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

In other fiscal matters, the governing body adopted the $300,486 operating budget for the Summit Improvement District.

Bomgaars noted the SID tax remained at around $178,000, the same amount as last year, and the district had increased the fees charged to vendors at the Summit Farmers’ Market.

The councilmen also passed a resolution concurring with the $59,522,842 adopted by the board of school estimate as the tax levy needed to operate the city’s schools for the next year.

The finance committee chair said the school tax levy, which increased only 0.18 percent for the 2012-2013 school year would result in a tax increase of about $14 on the average Summit home. The increase, he added, was due to the decrease in tax ratables.

He noted the tax for municipal purposes would increase about $15 on the average home and library services would cost about $8 more.

Getzendanner said, however, with the school budget figured on a calendar year basis and debt service added to the mix the increase was about 1.14 percent, still very reasonable.

Antoine Evers, who is a member of the Briant Park Olmstead Conservancy, told the council conservancy members had met with county and state officials concerning the group’s $550,000 grant to fund major improvements to the park.

Work, which the group has advocated for 10 years, should begin in the next few months, Evers added.

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