SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Common Council, at its April 3 meeting, approved a resolution authorizing the City to enter into an agreement with the Summit Conservancy that will see the City fund -- through cash and in-kind services -- one-fourth of the estimated $400,000 cost to construct a permanent home for the 'Summit Free Market' at the Hilltop City's Transfer Station.

The 'Summit Free Market', established in 2008 and largely managed by student volunteers, enables residents to donate and take home items at no charge, serving as both a mercantile and to keep unwanted items out of the trash stream. Items range from toys to furniture and pretty much everything in between.

Summit High School senior Emily Pommier, 'Free Market' student chair, presented a slideshow on the initiative, noting that students from Summit High School and Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS) assist with organizing, loading and unloading, creating a social media presence, and other activities. Pommier was Christine Lijoi, LCJMS teacher and 'Free Market' adult mentor

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The Market takes place at the Transfer Station on two Saturdays in the spring and two in the fall. It will next be open on April 28 and May 5, from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Pommier said that -- over the market’s history -- approximately 8,000 people have participated and more than 100 tons of reusable items has been kept out of the waste stream. Additionally, residents in need have been provided with home goods. She also listed volunteering opportunities, meaningful interactions with diverse members of the community, and a spirit of unity among residents as further benefits.

Discussing the future, Pommier said the public favors a monthly 'Free Market', adding that more recycled materials would save the City additional money. She suggested that a permanent building would not only allow a monthly event but could also be used to store and provide items for disaster relief such as fires. “Please, for our tenth anniversary, give this gift [a permanent home] not only to us but to your community.”.

The senior got her wish later in the meeting.

The Council addressed a resolution to authorize the execution of an agreement between the City and the Summit Conservancy to construct a 'Free Market' building at the Transfer Station. Council President David Naidu, a founder and member of the Conservancy, recused himself from the discussion. He drew a laugh from the audience when he noted that he doesn’t have any financial stake in the project; to the contrary, he’s donated to it. But to avoid anyone feeling pressured by his presence, he turned over the meeting to President Pro Tem Matt Gould.

Introducing the resolution, Ward 2 Council member Marjorie Fox reported that the Conservancy has raised funds and received a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey, and also has offered to construct the building. The proposed agreement, she noted, clarifies the responsibilities of both parties. She noted the space could also potentially be used for environmental education activities.

Beth Little, Council member at-large, added that she and her children have volunteered at the 'Free Market' over the years. She called it a “joyful experience to see the community come together in so many different ways.”

Ward 2 Council Member Mary Ogden asked if there were a way for the town to assist residents in getting large items to the 'Free Market'. Department of Community Services Director Paul Cascais replied that once the building is erected, the City can look at its own processes and examine whether its Dial-a-Truck can be used for that purpose.

Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan did point out that, while he supports the project, he wanted the public to be aware of the town’s commitment to about a quarter of the anticipated $400,000 construction costs. The resolution passed and Naidu resumed running the meeting.

Reached after the meeting by TAPinto Summit, Cascais said in an e-mail, "The estimated costs in the proposed budget which the City has agreed to be responsible is $100,000. However, a portion of the City’s estimated costs (labor and equipment) will be performed through in-kind services through the Division of Public Works, recognizing a savings to the City. The $100,000 is estimated costs for the various material and labor established by construction industry standards. It is estimated that 40+ percent will be in-kind."

In other meeting activity, there was a presentation by Cascais on the DCS’s online permit tracking system using Spatial Data Logic (SDL) software. Launched on January 1. SDL lets users remotely track the status of construction permit applications and inspections. Benefits to the public include greater convenience and transparency and less miscommunication.

The DCS began researching software in early 2016, talking to numerous municipalities who’ve been successfully using SDL for years. They also talked to the state to ensure the system would be compatible with the New Jerseys' requirements. While the state is only in the early stages of an online process, Summit will be ready when the state is. Cascais said the DCS staff has embraced the new software, which was customized for the City’s needs and which replaces a legacy system that’d been in place for 27 years. In the 12 weeks since implementation, about 100 online users have accessed the portal, located on the City's website.

Many applicants think that when their permit application is submitted, they will see an approval in 30 days. Rather, if an application requires “modifications or additional information, that timeline begins again,” explained Cascais. With SDL, an applicant can see in detail just where a permit is in the process without a visit to City Hall, even on a smartphone, at any time.

Jin Blades, assistant director, Department of Community Services, gave a demo of the software’s capabilities. There are three access levels: the public, active applicants including Realtors and contractors, and staff. Applicants receive a control number; they can link various email addresses to the account so that updates can be sent automatically to all concerned parties.

DCS anticipates outfitting its inspectors with field devices so that they can update the system remotely.

Jordan Greene, chair of the Technology Advisory Board, reported on that group’s activities. He opened with a dramatic PSA produced by AT&T illustrating the tragic results of texting while driving. He described distracted driving as the drunk driving of this generation. In response, the TAB is developing a service whereby residents can make an appointment with Parking Services to connect their phone’s Bluetooth to their car, eliminating the need for hands-on calling. He said more than 10% of automotive fatalities are linked to distracted driving. He pointed to California’s “no touch” phone policy, prohibiting the use of cell phones unless the device is mounted on the dash or windshield or is in voice-activation mode.

The TAB is also working with the Parking Authority to evaluate use of its facilities, using data to help maximize the value of existing services and programs.

Greene then suggested the City should end its $85,000 contract with HomeTowne TV. He proposed that the City is able to produce its own communications more effectively using modern technology. He disclosed that his presentation was bring broadcast live on Facebook. He pointed out that the savings could fund a $5,000 awareness campaign for the distracted driving program. Naidu argued that a significant portion of the population is not online and benefits greatly from being able to access HomeTowne TV on their television sets. He does not want to deny them access to the information they need, but did acknowledge it is a balancing act.

Finally, Greene announced early plans for the first Summit Tech Ambition Awards. Technology developments and investments made by local businesses, residents, and the City itself will be recognized in six categories.

Council voted on several additional resolutions. Ogden moved that the City increase the number and eligibility of participants in the Lyft ridesharing program to include residents who work downtown. This would free up additional parking spaces downtown. Up to 250 people would be eligible to participate. All users would continue to be dropped off at the train station. The motion passed.

Little moved a resolution that would streamline the process used to authorize certain tax appeals and settlements, essentially codifying a policy that has been in place for a number of years. The motion passed.

Little also introduced a resolution to establish the Summit Economic Development Advisory Committee. It would comprise seven community-at-large members, the mayor, the council president, the chairs of the Finance and Building and Grounds committees, and the City administrator. Its mission would be to take a “holistic approach” to evaluating the city’s current commercial uses and ratables and looking at new opportunities. Ward 2 council member Stephen Bowman questioned the size of the committee. Little responded that there is different expertise in the community that would be valuable to capture, much like other City committees. McTernan raised the specter of suggestions that “get the government more involved in creating winners and losers, citing the City’s planning board, master plan, and grant writer. Naidu noted that the committee would be able to look at commercial areas other than downtown and to take a long-term view. He also pointed out that its recommendations would have to be voted on by the Council. The motion did pass, with McTernan, Ogden, and Bowman voting no.

Bowman moved a number of resolutions. The first authorized the 2018 Arbor Day festivities on May 18, including the planting of two trees at Washington Elementary and the distribution of tree seedlings. Summit is a Tree City USA city. The second authorized the submission of a non-match grant for tree pruning from the state DEP. Another authorized applying for a 2018 Union County Recycling Enhancement Grant, which would allow the City to install two Bigbelly trash containers at Glenside Field. These compact waste, requiring fewer trips to empty them, and can communicate when they are full. Bowman has seen them at work in Philadelphia, where they “make recycling fun.” Fox added that they are solar-powered and their construction prevents spilled trash. Also moved were resolutions to extend an employee’s paid sick leave and one declaring a vacancy in the Department of Community Services. All five Buildings & Grounds resolutions passed.

Three ordinances were introduced. Ogden presented one that would increase the hourly-parking rate at the 90-minute meters downtown. Those rates were last increased in 2006. Parkers would still get an initial free 15 minutes, but 30 minutes would now be $0.50; 60 minutes, $1.00; and 90 minutes, $1.50. The new rates would go into effect in July. The public hearing will take place on April 17.

Little introduced an ordinance to streamline the procedure for setting sewer fees, allowing that to be done by resolution rather than ordinance. The public would retain the same ability to comment as at present. It also changes the payment due date from September 1 to June 15 to improve cash flow. The public hearing on this will also be on April 17.

Fox introduced an ordinance allowing the City to declare a 14’ wide strip of land on Summit Avenue as no longer needed for public use, and hold a private sale to Manuel and Adriana Costeira. This ordinance will be heard on May 1.

Radest reported that on March 19, some 200 people attended the first public workshop to share ideas about the Broad Street West redevelopment project. The data gathered will be shared with the public at the next workshop, on May 5. She invited the public to share further comments online at courb.co/broadst. Radest also said that soon there will be signs posted around the project area asking questions like “what would you like to see in this spot?” and providing a phone number where answers can be texted.

She also reported that New Jersey Transit expects the Morris Avenue Bridge to be open in mid-June.

In ceremonial activity, Council recognized the many groups involved in providing invaluable assistance during and after the New Year’s Eve fire at 125 Summit Avenue. City Fire Chief Eric Evers described how his department is at work daily to keep Summit safe, performing safety checks and risk assessments on buildings throughout the City. This pays off, said the Chief, when a disaster strikes, as the Summit Fire Department (SFD0 has valuable information at hand.

Evers and Mayor Nora Radest presented framed certificates of appreciation to representatives from The Committed Pig, Summit Diner, Grand Summit Hotel, Vita Organic Foods, the Summit Area YMCA, the Red Cross, and the Other Fellow First Foundation. Each of these played a role in providing food, shelter, clothing, gift cards, and other support to both the fire victims and the Fire Department, that night and afterwards.

Evers next recognized the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad, who attended to several injuries as well as providing care for the firefighters. Finally, Radest described how the SFD responded to the fire within four minutes in frigid weather, arriving at a fully occupied four-story apartment building with occupants trapped on the second and third floors.Three occupants were forced to jump from the second story because of the intensity of the fire, but the Department was able to rescue the remaining occupants.

The Award of Valor was presented to Battalion Chief Clint Evers, Lieutenant James Pignatello, Firefighter Gabe Iannella, Firefighter Dwight Nichols, Firefighter Chris Esposito, Firefighter Brian Tavis and Police Officer Ruddy Garita.

Finally, there was a moment of silence to mark the recent passing of former council and board of education member Bill Rosen.