SUMMIT, NJ - The 'chief' order of business at the April 28 Summit Common Council meeting was confirming who will next lead the City of Summit Police Department (SPD), with the Council, mayor, and department heads once again met remotely via Zoom, broadcasting the proceedings via HTTV and YouTube at its customary 7:30 p.m. start time.
Both the agenda and the meeting itself were short -- the gathering lasted a brisk 64 minutes -- as the Council continues to address only matters essential to the continuing operation of government during the pandemic.
Summit's mayor has the privilege of selecting the Chief of Police with the Council’s affirmation. Ward 1 Council Member Susan Hairston introduced the Safety and Health Committee resolution confirming Mayor Nora Radest’s appointment of Summit Police Captain Andrew Bartolotti as the new Chief, effective June 1.
Current Police Chief Robert Weck, who at this time is recovering from COVID-19, will retire effective June 1 with a legacy of 30-plus years of service to Summit that includes nearly a decade as its 'top cop'. Weck will be recognized at a future date. Hairston said Bartolotti, who’s been serving as officer in charge during Weck’s convalescence, joined the Safety Committee during the height of emergency planning and “hit the ground running.” She characterized his “thoughtful and thorough approach” as “very calming.”
Radest said Bartolotti has the respect of his department and everyone with whom he has worked. He joined the SPD in April 2000, after serving two years with the Manasquan Police Department. In 2004, he was assigned to the detective bureau and served on a number of Union County task forces. In 2007, he was promoted to Sergeant and, in 2011, to Lieutenant, tasked with commanding the patrol bureau before being reassigned in 2012 command the detective bureau. As a lieutenant Bartolotti attended the FBI’s law enforcement executive development course at Princeton University and graduated from the NJ State Association of Captains of Police (NJSACP) Command Leadership Academy.
Bartolotti made Captain in 2012 and was assigned as the divisional commander of the support services division, overseeing the department’s juvenile, community policing, traffic, and field training units and spearheading the department’s technology upgrades. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson, and was certified in 2015 as an accredited command executive by the NJSACP. In 2016, he was one of 15 New Jersey law enforcement executives to train at the international College of Policing in Great Britain. One year later, he represented Summit with distinction when he was selected one of six law enforcement executives from the Garden State to attend the prestigious FBI national academy in Quantico, VA.
Radest closed the list of his accomplishments by noting that during his career, “he has committed himself to service to others, both residents and visitors, and his fellow officers and coworkers.”
Council Member at-Large Beth Little, speaking as a member of the Safety Committee and a former prosecutor, expressed her belief that Bartolotti is the right choice to fill Weck’s “very impressive shoes” and this will be “a really good transition for the City of Summit.”
Ward 2 Council Member Greg Vartan said, “integrity, courage, duty, loyalty, respect, and honor” not only are the values of the police department; they also describe Bartolottti. He called him “passionate about the people he serves and the people who serve beside him….We’re going from one great Chief to another.” Vartan made a personal connection as a sixth-grader with Bartolotti when the latter was an instructor at the Summit Police Youth Academy.
David Naidu, Ward 1 Council Member, remarked on the significance of the appointment that “affects every single resident.” He praised Bartolotti’s “insight and knowledge … of what is necessary for the functioning of the department” as well as his understanding of the community.
Council President Marjorie Fox was pleased to support the appointment as well, saying Bartolotti, as officer in charge for the past month during Weck’s illness, has impressed her with his management and leadership skills, his understanding of the needs of the community, and his “unflappability.”
The resolution passed unanimously.
Thanking the mayor and council for their support, Bartolotti promised an “open, accountable, and accessible” department run with “utmost professionalism and the highest level of integrity.”
Farmers Market Site Relocation Approved
With another Health & Safety resolution, Council voted to make changes in the location and operation of the Summit Farmers Market to comply with social distancing guidelines. Radest explained that the proposed guidelines for the market, deemed an essential service, have been approved by the governor’s office. The market will be open on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning on May 10 and running through November 22. It will move to the Park and Shop Lot #1 on Deforest Avenue at Woodland Avenue. The larger lot will allow for a better flow of shoppers.
There will be 40 vendors spaced six feet apart; stripes will be painted on the pavement to assist patrons with social distancing. A limited number of people will be permitted in the market at any given time, so families are urged to designate a solo shopper. Dogs won’t be permitted. Shoppers should plan to spend about 15 minutes at the market. Both customers and vendors will be required to wear face masks, and shoppers won’t be able to handle the produce, but will have to point to their selection. Vendors will have to provide a 'contactless' payment system as well as accept cash. The regulations will be posted online, and may change depending on developments in the health crisis.
At-Large Council Member Beth Little observed that patronizing the market is an excellent way to support local farmers and food suppliers.
In emailed public comments, Carl Loschert, Lenox Road, asked if there would be modifications to the City’s noise ordinances, especially with respect to landscaping equipment, in light of the number of people working or learning from home. Fox reiterated the ordinance permits usage between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends. City solicitor Matthew Giacobbe added that since Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order deems landscapers as essential, the City is prevented from making any changes to its laws to restrict them. Little added that this subject has been under discussion by the Community Service committee, and that after the health crisis, the committee will look into potential changes. She added that Megan Avalon of the Westfield Regional Health Department has offered assurances that leaf-blowers do not spread the virus.
Eileen Kelly, Woodland Avenue, asked if the latest budget is online and whether mailings to residents reflect the latest revenue assumptions, particularly anticipated pool and golf revenues. Fox verified the budget is on the City’s website. Vartan expanded on that, saying the snapshot that will be sent to residents is based on pre-crisis budgetary assumptions.
Kelly wondered if the 'Sustain Summit Fund' has funds earmarked for women- or minority-owned businesses. Radest reported the fund for local small businesses has collected more than $270,000 of its $400,000 goal. One hundred and fifty businesses have applied for grants, and 117 have been approved. The grants, totaling $251,000, range from $1,250 to $5,000. A second distribution will take place in the future. Addressing Kelly’s inquiry, Radest said the only criteria considered were the number of employees and the amount of rent owed by the applicants, and that women and minority owners were among those receiving grants.
Kelly also wanted to know what business-support grants the City has applied for in lieu of collecting federal finds. Fox answered that businesses themselves have to apply for SBA loans, and the City isn’t currently aware of other grants available, though it continues to seek such opportunities.
Other Resolutions / Business
Hairston moved a third Health & Safety resolution authorizing a grant application to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety Pedestrian Safety, Enforcement, and Education Fund for $15,000. This would fund additional police details at targeted locations and educational materials to promote pedestrian safety. The city applies for this grant annually; this would be for financial year 2021.
Ward 1 Council Member Danny O’Sullivan moved a Community Programs & Parking Services resolution to extend the City’s temporary parking rules, originally approved March 24, through May 26. These changes, waiving parking fees for City lots and meters and establishing 15-minute curbside pickup-only spaces, aim to assist the community and support businesses in the Central Business District during the current health crisis. Parking time limits will continue to be enforced to encourage turnover and vehicles parked illegally will still be ticketed.
Little had a pair of Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first awarded a bid for the Safe Streets to Transit Project, implementing safety improvements to four intersections near the NJ Transit station – Summit Avenue and Franklin Place, Broad Street and Summit Avenue, Maple Street and Union Place, and Maple Street and Railroad Avenue. Improvements include the addition of rapid rectangular flashing beacons, lighting, sidewalk repair, and road surface treatments. Little noted this may have been the first time the City did a bid opening outdoors, to ensure safe distancing. The winner was Zuccaro. Inc, who has previously worked with the City. The entire $289,855 cost of the project is covered by grant money.
Her second resolution authorizes the Environmental Commission to submit a grant application for $1,500 to the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) Open Space Stewardship Grants program. This grant would support the installation of a rain garden at the Summit Community Center. The grant requires in-kind volunteer services hours, to be provided by the Environmental Commission and the DCS,
All resolutions passed.
There was a short update on the City’s coronavirus response by Deputy Fire Chief Don Nelson, emergency management coordinator. He sketched the timeline of the pandemic, from the first reported US case on January 21, to the first NJ case on March 4, followed by the declaration of a state of emergency in the Garden State on March 9. He gave current case numbers for the state, county, and City, which has seen a total of 168 cases.
Nelson said all local responding agencies are functioning well, as is Overlook Medical Center. The City is reaching out to vendors for personal protective equipment, but it remains hard to obtain. He described how the Regional Health Department’s “contact tracing” is going beyond sheer numbers by taking the personal stories of those affected as well.
Referring to Governor Phil Murphy’s “Road Back” plan, he said everyone will know more on May 15. The City continues to work on grants for emergency equipment, and he thanked the department heads for their involvement.
Radest added that she’s “only hearing really good things” from the community about the OEM team, first responders, and essential workers at city hall.
In her Mayor’s report, Radest said Overlook had the highest number of COVID-19-positve patients on April 14 – 243 – but “in contrast, today there are 160, indicating that staying at home is working.”
The Mayor was among those celebrating the discharge of Summit Police Department officer Anthony Pyzik from Morristown Medical Center on Monday. She was joined by Summit first responders and Morristown police. On April 21, Pyzik was involved in a crash at the intersection of Morris Avenue and Lower Overlook Road while monitoring a vehicle pursuit from a neighboring jurisdiction. He’s now at home recuperating.
City Administrator Michael Rogers reminded the public that second quarter property taxes are due on May 1, with the last date for payment without penalty being May 11. Residents can use the online payment system on the City website or the drop box on the outside of city hall.
Municipal court sessions resumed on April 27, by telephone or video conference. Details will soon be issued for the City’s shared court system. More information is available at njcourts.gov.
Rogers also announced the Department of Community Services has increased the number of time slots at the transfer station, open from 7:30 to 2:30 Tuesdays and Fridays. Reservations for the 15-minute appointments must be made online or by phone.
Fox mentioned the governor’s “Road Back” phased plan for reopening the state and said he’d introduced his implementation team. Details are at covid19.nj.gov. She urged listeners to “stay the course and continue to practice safe social distancing” even as the weather improves.
Vartan reported the Union County Freeholders met on April 23 and approved an amended county operating budget that keeps spending flat, effectively resulting in a 0% increase. He thanked them for their responsible actions in a letter to be read at their meeting. Vartan also reminded the public that everyone is eligible to vote by mail. The primary will now be held July 7, with related deadlines moved as well; details are at unioncountyvotes.com.
Finally, he noted the passing of two significant Summit residents, Dr. Donald Geddis, past principal at Summit High School, and attorney Carl Lohmann, both life members of the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad.