SUMMIT, NJ — Following a longer-than-usual closed session, the Summit Common Council opened its May 1 meeting at 7:45 with Ward 1 Council Member Matthew Gould acting as President Pro tem. The Council passed several resolutions, including one, proffered by Council Member at-large Beth Little, which officially put an end to a planned decorative paving project on Beechwood Road.
The resolution authorized the cancellation of the contract for the Beechwood Road decorative paving project -- approved unanimously by Coundl in June of 2016 -- which would have paid $307,425 to Cifelli & Sons for the installation of decorative paving that would have created a 'cobblestone' appearance on Beechwood Road, from Springfield Avenue to the Train Station. Little noted that concerns regarding the project -- which had received a tepid reaction from the business community -- raised by residents and questions over the viability of the materials proposed were factors in the decision.
Ward 2 Council Member Steve Bowman put forth a resolution to authorize a two-year project for maintenance of the eight grass athletic fields at the schools, Memorial Field, Wilson Park, and Walter Long Field. The contract, awarded to TruGreen of South Plainfield, is worth $88,783.60. Funding comes from recreation accounts payable, the Board of Education, and field user fees.
Gould asked about the lower high school field, which he’s observed being used as an unofficial dog park, and whether that would have “a deleterious effect the work TruGreen does.” Summit Director of Community Programs Judith Leblein-Josephs responded by saying that dog waste and loose canines are ongoing problems for the park system, but that there is an enforceable ordinance on the books. She said signage and a campaign are being put together, reminding people to keep their dogs on leashes and to pick up after them.
Also proposed by Bowman was a resolution authorizing submission of the 2017 recycling tonnage report. This is a state requirement and is necessary for many grant applications. In 2017, $31,775 in grant money was awarded to Summit for recycling projects. Additionally, some of the recycled material is sold by the city.
Resolutions declaring vacancies for a part-time parking enforcement officer and a full-time maintenance position in the Division of Public Works (DPW) were offered by Ward 2 Council Member Mary Ogden and Bowman, respectively. Both are existing positions. The DPW job would be filled at a less senior level, resulting in some savings. Naidu explained that the city seeks to balance the use of technology and efficient use of personnel with the reality of work that needs to be done.
Little moved to establish the 2018 fees for operating and maintaining the sanitary sewer system. Fees are due June 15. Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan observed that the city’s $247 sewer fee is “a bargain” compared to towns nearby, largely due to the foresight of the city fathers who became part of the Joint Meeting system in the 1920s.
Little bundled two other resolutions, one amending the insurance requirements for individual contractors for Summit Downtown events and a similar one for Department of Community Programs (DCP) events. This allows individual artists and performers to sign a hold harmless agreement with the Summit Downtown, Inc. or the DCP, rather than providing an insurance certificate. The City’s risk manager has approved this change. Council President David Naidu said, “It enhances our downtown and makes a positive contribution to the arts and to the liveliness of our downtown.” He added that it is consistent with what other towns do.
All resolutions were approved.
Three ordinances had public hearings and were voted on. None elicited any public comment and each prompted minimal council discussion.
The first, introduced by Bowman, prohibits on-street parking on the north side of Lowell Avenue between Morris Avenue and Madison Avenue from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Lowell already has a two-hour parking restriction between 7 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., but residents have expressed concern about parking causing unsafe driving conditions and difficulty using their driveways. McTernan pointed out the importance of balancing the needs of the businesses in that area with those of the nearby residents, and that this improves safety “not just for drivers and residences, but for the clientele” of those businesses. Gould noted the presence of several parking lots nearby and the success of the temporary measures currently in place.
Ward 2 Council Member Marjorie Fox introduced an ordinance to declare a strip of City-owned land along Summit Avenue adjacent to the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad building “not needed” and authorize its private sale at fair-market value. It will be purchased by Manny and Adriana Costeira, who are building two, two-family homes on the corner of Morris Avenue and Sayre Street. Zoning Board approval of their project is contingent on the acquisition of this property. Fox mentioned that the strip of property, just 14’ wide, can’t be used by the City but must still be maintained. The two homes to be built will put this property back on the tax rolls.
The third ordinance, introduced by Little, establishes salaries and compensation for the City’s officers and union and non-union employees for 2018. She pointed out that there were no significant changes over the previous year. Following a brief discussion between McTernan and City Administrator Michael Rogers clarifying the rating system in place, the motion passed.
In each case, the ordinances passed unanimously with the exception of Naidu, who joined the meeting at 8:15 p.m. and abstained from voting.
Radest’s mayor’s report noted:
The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Trailside Museum Association have recognized Summit Environmental Commission member Jeff Hankinson with a Trailside Environmental Hero Award at its annual Wild Earth Fest on April 29. Hankinson was recognized for his years of work improving and promoting the hiking trails in Summit.
Radest said that May 15 is the last day to register for the June 5 primary election. The City Clerk’s office will offer extended hours on May 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. to process in -person voter registration applications.
Work on the Morris Avenue bridge continues. The City has moved the main sewer line to its permanent location. NJ Transit still promises an early- to mid-June completion date.
Some 714 tons of tree debris were collected following this past season’s Nor’easters. He thanked the DPW staff for its diligence and hard work.
City Clerk Rosemary Licatese has been working to improve the audio quality and has rectified the issues with Comcast’s broadcasts. Gould asked residents watching these meetings on Verizon to contact Licatese if they continue to have audio problems so she can follow up with Verizon.
The next 'Council on the Road' session will take place on June 13, at 7 p.m., at the First Aid Squad building. This informal question-and-answer session allows for dialogue and follow-up among residents and their elected officials.
In ceremonial activity, Radest proclaimed May as 'Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Month'. The Summit Family Aquatic Center opens MAy 26 and will host another edition of the 'World’s Largest Swimming Lesson' on June 21 at 3 p.m.