SUMMIT, NJ - In a 39-minute-long sprint of a gathering that included no presentations or proclamations, the City of Summit Common Council got its 2021 meeting schedule off to a running start, powering through a series of resolutions that included approving a $338,000 Tatlock Field track replacement project. 

Resolutions

Ward Two Council Member Greg Vartan moved a pair of finance resolutions. The first was a bookkeeping measure authorizing the transfer of unused funds in 2020 operating accounts to accounts with insufficient funds. Similar resolutions will be voted on until the Council adopts its 2021 operating budget. This passed on a unanimous roll call vote. His second authorized a Special Tax Appeal Attorney to file various actions with the Union County Tax Board and the NJ Tax Court. This annual authorization supports the efficient functioning of the Tax Assessor’s office.

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Two Community Programs & Parking Services resolutions were moved by Ward One Council Member Danny O’Sullivan. The first amended the structure of the 'Silver Summit Senior Citizens Advisory Committee' to allow subcommittees and ad hoc committees. He reported that Chair Tracy Keegan has been researching best practices in similar organizations and the new structure will make it easier to run and organize the many volunteers carrying out the work of the committee.

Tatlock Field Track Project

Sullivan's second resolution authorized going through the Educational Services Commission of the NJ Cooperative Pricing System for the resurfacing of the Tatlock Field track at a cost not to exceed $338,000. This project was included in the 2019 budget and is partially funded by a Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund matching grant. The current track, heavily used by high school teams, the Department of Community Programs, and recreational runners and walkers, is more than 13 years old. The chosen vendor, Field Turf USA, has worked on nearly every track in the state, and O’Sullivan is “confident that they will do an expert job in a timely fashion.”

The work comes with a five-year warranty. Because the ESCNJ provides predetermined preferential pricing through approved vendors like Field Turf USA, individual buyers don’t have to go through a formal bidding process. The project will also include a new long jump runway and a triple jump. These upgrades will put the track in compliance with New Jersey State Interscholastic Association and National Federation of High Schools standards, allowing Summit High School to host large meets like the 'Summit Relays'. Work should begin shortly after the high school graduation and take a few weeks. Council Member at Large Beth Little noted the resurfacing has been pushed off for a number of years, and while there has been ongoing maintenance on the track surface, it is well past its expected lifespan.

Stephen Bowman, Ward Two Council Member, raised concerns not with the project itself but with the bidding process, saying the City “needs to challenge the coop to get better pricing for future projects.” Little replied that Department of Community Programs Director Mark Ozoroski solicited other bids to compare pricing and found others’ costs to be significantly higher. Bowman’s was the lone vote against approving the purchase.

Bowman’s sole Law & Labor resolution extended sick leave with pay for a Parking Services employee through March 16.

Little presented a half-dozen Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first rejected a bid and authorized abandoning an on-call landscaping contract for this year. She explained the single bid received had several deficiencies. Since it was determined the City hadn’t exceeded $5,000 worth of services in recent years, it could probably handle the landscaping in-house and assess the strategy going forward. Next was a vote to adopt the City’s stop sign installation guidelines. As an increasing number of requests are being submitted by residents, the City created guidelines so everyone understands the formalities that need to be followed to ensure adherence to engineering best practices and national and state guidelines and standards. The guidelines were developed jointly by the Public Safety and Capital Projects committees and the police department.

Another resolution authorized a change order for an additional $1,725 for the fall 2020 tree planting project. SJC Lawn Care, which did the work, determined the need to relocate four trees needed and to add a bio-barrier to protect one tree to ensure their survival. Bowman, as liaison to the Shade Tree Committee, acknowledged the necessity of proper maintenance to ensure the healthy growth of the City’s trees. Also authorized was deer culling by Union County at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum to prevent plant damage. Next up was an agreement for snow removal and lighting reimbursement for Summit View Condominiums. A state statute permits condominium associations to request reimbursement from towns for certain services which they’d otherwise be entitled to receive from the town. The reimbursement is at the rate it would cost the City to provide the service.

Finally, Little moved a resolution authorizing a contract not to exceed $65,000 with Topology, the City’s planners, for professional planning and real estate advisory services for Phase V the Broad Street West Redevelopment Project. The contract costs are eligible to be reimbursed by the re-developer.

All resolutions passed.

Public Comments

In public comments, Ana Estupinan, Portland Road, called in to the meeting. The Summit High School junior is the student representative on the City’s Recycling Advisory Committee. She called attention to the fact that this past summer was the second-warmest on record since New Jersey started keeping data in 1895. She urged listeners to keep ways to mitigate climate change at the forefront of their everyday decisions. This includes reducing reliance on plastics and recycling correctly. She added that participation in special recycling collections is impactful, citing string lights at the Transfer Station, tennis balls at Memorial and Tatlock fields, and cellphones at the UPS Store in conjunction with the American Legion’s 'Cellphones for Soldiers' program. Estupinan emphasized that national change almost always begins locally, and that “we cannot afford to wait. We need to act now with sustainably minded choices.”

Abe Kasbo, Kent Place Boulevard, thanked Mayor Nora Radest and Susan Hairston, Ward One Council Member, for meeting with him and other neighbors on Saturday regarding the noise problem at Bristol Myers Squibb. Radest agreed that it was “a productive conversation” and asked for the residents’ continued patience as the City pursues a reasonable solution for all parties. “We learned a lot and I have work to do.” Residents’ complaints about pervasive noise emanating from Bristol Myers Squibb dominated the previous two meetings’ public comments segment.

Mayor's Report

Earlier in the day, Radest recorded a Facebook video with Other Fellow First Chair Brett Haire promoting the $10,000 challenge grant to benefit the 'Summit Warm Hearts' initiative aiding the City’s homeless citizens. The Foundation will match up to $10,000. To donate, go to otherfellowfirstfoundation.org or mail a check to the Foundation.

Those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should sign up at both the state and county websites or call Union County at 908-518-4307. Those not yet eligible can register on the state site but must wait for eligibility to register with the county, explained Radest. City staff has been working to secure a partnership for vaccination distribution at the Community Center for seniors and those with diagnosed chronic conditions. Details will be forthcoming. Radest also noted that local medical centers and pharmacies will offer vaccinations when they receive supplies. Acknowledging that not everyone is online, she asked internet-connected residents to “please lend assistance to your elderly friends and neighbors. Our goal is to continue vaccinations at the Community Center until our entire community can receive a vaccination if they want one, and we hope you all do.”

Describing her participation in the prior day’s Martin Luther King Day of Justice, Equality, and Service to Others, she called this year’s programs “different but meaningful and well executed.” She recognized Shaping Summit Together and its chair, Annette Dwyer, and the members of the Interfaith Council for their hard work and the Summit Police Department for traffic control during the automobile procession past eleven sites and houses of worship.

Radest closed her mayor’s report by observing, “given what is happening nationally, I am extremely grateful for the collegial and productive working relationship among our members of Common Council. Regardless of your political affiliation, I am your mayor, and it is a priority for me to continue to work for solutions to issues that impact us all locally. I want to reassure you that we are safe in our community and this council will continue to do the people’s business.” Looking forward to a time when she can reinstate in-person office hours, Radest said residents can call or email her in the meantime.

Other Business / General Information

City Administrator Michael Rogers noted that curbside pickup of bag-free Christmas trees will run through January 29.

The Senior Freeze program reimburses eligible seniors and disabled persons for property tax increases on their primary residence. The deadline to apply for 2019 reimbursement has been extended through February 1, 2021. Information is available at https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/, or by calling the city tax collector’s office.

Finally, Rogers warned citizens that phone scams are on the rise in Summit. If someone receives a call from someone purporting to represent a family member in trouble, and asking for bail money via a gift card or cash, they should not provide or confirm any information to the caller. Instead, they should immediately call the Summit Police Department at 908-273-0051. Rogers added that e-gift cards are never requested by legitimate authorities for bail payment.

Council President Marjorie Fox’s report alluded to the “violent mob [that] stormed the U.S. Capitol…. While our national political scene is rife with polarization, I appreciate how our municipal government remains pragmatic, working to get things done … for the benefit of our City, our residents, and our business community.”

Earlier that day, Fox participated in the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s nationwide ceremony honoring those lost to COVID. She thanked the City staff for illuminating the face of City Hall and the Interfaith Council for organizing bell-ringing by houses of worship. She then presided over a moment of silence.

In closing comments, Ward One Council Member David Naidu referenced the inauguration and wished the incoming president and “historic” vice president “best of luck in these extraordinary times, because their success is our success... Hopefully they will bring us out of the pandemic and renew our unity in this country.”

Hairston echoed the mayor’s thanks to the Interfaith Council “for the great MLK services” and the police department for its “flawless traffic maneuvering. It was a great sight to see.” Referring to the memorial service earlier in the day, she said, “having the opportunity to attend the service held by the Interfaith, recognizing all those that were lost to COVID, the families who haven’t been able to mourn … I appreciate that moment.”