Summit Council Introduces $500,000 Bond Ordinance to Repair Culvert at Memorial Field; 2013 Governing Body Goals Take Aim at Specifics

Credits: TAP Staff

SUMMIT, NJ—An ordinance that would appropriate $500,000 to deal with long-needed repairs to the culvert under Memorial Field was introduced at Tuesday’s meeting of the Summit Common Council.

The closed portion of the culvert, which serves as the headwaters to the Salt Brook, passes underneath Brayton School and its playground area.

Councilman Robert Rubino, who chairs the public works committee, explained the project, funded partially by $476,000 in bonds or notes, would involve replacement of the pedestrian bridge over the culvert, rehabilitation of the channel walls, concrete repairs to spalled areas along the closed portion, desnagging of the culvert and fencing of the exit point of the culvert as it empties near the Brayton School.

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He added the work is expected to prevent Brayton School students from entering the culvert and to reduce flooding in the area of the school, which has been serious in the last several years.

The governing body also introduced a $125,000 bond ordinance for purchase of surveillance equipment and cabling for security cameras downtown and in the tier garage and replacement of the fire alarm system in the garage.

Responding to a question about sharing costs among a number of similar equipment purchases, Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo, who chairs the general services committee, said the security purchases anticipated in the ordinance are necessary to begin networking of the downtown security equipment.

She added additional security equipment for other central business district areas and city departments such as the police department would be purchased later.

Councilman Thomas Getzendanner, who cast the lone vote against the equipment purchase, said the city should think about turning the 25-year-old tier garage, which has reached its maximum depreciation point, over to a private developer who could tear it down and build a “state-of-the-art 21st century facility.”

Getzendanner often has advocated for the city to turn management of all its parking facilities over to a private vendor, who he feels would be able to handle the parking operation more efficiently than the current city-run parking utility.

The public hearings on the two ordinances are scheduled for Dec. 18.

On another item, Business Administrator Chris Cotter presented more specific ideas within the 2013 council goals established in October by the governing body.

Under fiscal responsibility, he said, the council will look at mobilizing Summit citizens to press for greater control of the Union County budget, expanding shared services with the city’s schools, utilizing volunteer organizations such as the Friends of the Library to help save on services currently provided with tax dollars and trying to generate more revenue through expanded use of the city transfer station.

In the safety area, according to Cotter, the city should continue establishment of the joint emergency dispatch center with New Providence, expand use of Code Red, Nixle and other emergency management communications systems, map out an overall media plan for Summit and expand training opportunities in the police and fire departments.

Expansion of the boundaries of the central business district, first introduced last year, should continue, the administrator said.

Other goals for support of the downtown, he added, include promotion of Summit and a tourist destination and continued establishment of the city transit village concept.

Under technology and communications, he said, there should be more investment in the city’s technology infrastructure, increased cyber security and added safeguarding of private information handled by city agencies.

While supporting most of the goals, Councilman Patrick Hurley said he would like to see specific cost savings projected by, for example, sharing more services with the schools and objectives the city expected to achieve through increased police and fire training.

Getzendanner, however, said many of the goals as introduced were “Mom and Apple Pie” and did not get down to the austerity measures necessary for the city to improve its fiscal situation.

He noted the goals did not include 18 measures he had suggested such as selling naming rights to city facilities and a citywide real estate revaluation.

Councilman Dave Bomgaars called for more specific action on tree trimming near city utility lines, especially in light of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

He said if Jersey Central Power & Light Company is not able to complete all the tree trimming the city department of public works should take up some of the slack.

Council President Richard Madden said had the council goal-setting session been held following the storm a much greater emphasis would have been placed on infrastructure.

Noting JCP&L has estimated it will face up to $400 million in statewide losses due to Sandy, he said the cost of storm damage to Summit probably would be “huge.”

Madden also said city residents may have to chose between having power on by removing trees and not removing trees and facing loss of power.

In addition, he noted, his wife had suggested that Summit pursue establishment of a community-based radio station that could broadcast emergency information continuously over transistor radios in the event of a power outage.

The council president added that Hurley will be heading a subcommittee that will be looking into future storm safety and infrastructure preparedness planning.

In response to the tree-trimming suggestions, Portuondo said the council building and grounds committee soon would recommend a comprehensive program of city tree-trimming and the education of residents to trim trees on their properties near utility facilities.

In addition to Nixle and Code Red, Rubino said, the city was urging residents to make more use of the “Report to Gov” application to report problems to city officials.

He also said the city should promote more community involvement by uniting students and senior citizens, for example, in activities centering around the library and community center.

On another matter involving the city’s fiscal situation, Getzendanner urged the council to consider “sequestering” about $200,000 not used for projects in the current budget and, rather than reallocating it to new projects, setting it aside for future tax relief.

Madden said the idea was a good one but it might be impacted by the cost of rebuilding Summit’s storm-damaged infrastructure.

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